Svare, Lodve A.
PhD project theme:
Emancipation and peace – towards a realist ontological basis for a sensible, critical-pragmatic peace science
The project seeks to understand how peace research can fulfil its original goal of producing and putting to work knowledge which can help liberate people from undesirable and needless violence. Towards this end, the project explores the possibility and necessary preconditions for research in the name of peace to strengthen the quest for human emancipation in a realist (including material and physical) sense. The underlying assumption is that peace is an elemental and real potential in the world – a process and condition that can be and is actualised and experienced by humans to varying degrees at different times and places.
Although the tag peace research sends a clear normative message through its mere wording, much academic work framed under the heading of peace seems to be neither critical nor emancipatory in any specific or deep sense. As such, there is a risk that the efforts end up only reaffirming and justifying, and perhaps even naturalising, current conditions rather than challenging the status quo. Arguably, this status quo is often a real-world situation in which undesirable and needless violence, with immense human suffering, is just as prevalent, if not more so, as is peace (in whatever way concerned people in the relevant context choose to define the term). The project hypothesises that the lack of a clear, explicit and sufficiently real-world connected (i.e. realist) ontological basis may be a significant cause behind this rather unhappy situation in much contemporary peace research.
Theoretically, from a review of core ideas in critical realist philosophy and critical political theory, the project discusses (on a pragmatic meta-level) how such scholarly traditions can support normative peace research generally and strengthen its scientific basis in terms of explicit and real-world committed realist ontology in particular. Empirically, with reference to political developments in post-war Sri Lanka, the project examines the way in which incongruent peace expectations, based on competing ontologies or mere "ontic speculations", legitimate the continued existence and cementation of disconnected realities. These separate "political worlds" seem to be part of a larger set of causes which block any serious attempt at political restructuring and interethnic reconciliation and hence a reorientation towards a democratically sound and pluralistic society after decades of violent strife.