Postcolonial Hierarchies


Conceptual questions on postcolonial perspectives in peace and conflict research are primarily dealt with and discussed in the so-called Think Lab. The aim is to open up postcolonial debates from related academic fields such as sociology, cultural studies, literature, and history, but also from relevant interdisciplinary research fields such as subaltern studies and decolonial theory for peace and conflict research. This will also involve a critical examination of the theses represented there in the light of the body of knowledge of peace and conflict research. Last but not least, concepts of postcolonial debates will be confronted with the empirical results of our research in the network. In this respect, the Think Lab is the place where the results from the research fields and projects are reflected upon conceptually and theoretically. For this purpose, the current methodological debates on post- and decolonial approaches are of central importance. The Think Lab not only involves the participating scholars and the academic staff of the network, but also, and very importantly, our visiting scholars. They bring academic and methodological research ideas beyond the Global North into the work of the Think Lab and can thus discuss their own work and that of the network members.

First Think Lab, 5th-6th October 2022

Second Virtual Think Lab, 7th June 2023

ThinkLab 1

The Postcolonial Hierarchies in Peace & Conflict Network’s first Think Lab took place at one of its participating institutions, the Arnold Bergstraesser Institut (ABI) in Freiburg at the University of Freiburg. During the Think Lab, the Network addressed its defining notion: “postcolonial hierarchies”. The main goal of the Think Lab was to articulate a shared definition/understanding of “postcolonial hierarchies” while acknowledging the specificities of the concept and contexts. 

Over two days, scholars of the Network and invited guest-speakers (Madina Tlostanova; Filiberto Penados; Layla D. Brown; Amya Agarwal; Emery Mudinga; Roxana Willis; Piro Rexhepi; Mahdis Azarmandi; Emile Sunjo) interrogated three of the conceptual tenets of the research Network, namely: postcoloniality, decoloniality, and hierarchies. The scholars discussed the different meanings attached to each concept, their temporal and geographical trajectories, their origins and context-specific translations, focusing on the field of peace and conflict studies. 

The first session of the Think Lab revolved around conceptualizations of postcoloniality and decoloniality – addressing their origins, meanings, and interrelation. The participants also considered methodological implications for the Network’s research, including issues of reflexivity and positionality. The second session aimed at discussing practical aspects of theoretical contributions, namely, the implications of the discussed themes to the Network’s work packages and individual research of participants. 

ThinkLab 2

Building upon the first Think Lab, the Second Virtual Think Lab, hosted by Philipps Universität Marburg, focused on an in-depth engagement with the Network´s key concept of “hierarchies”. The Virtual Think Lab examined the concept of “postcolonial hierarchies” in relation to the individual research projects of the Network´s members. based on two articles which help us further conceptualize the concept of hierarchies. Based on an input from Prof. Dr. Tobias Berger (FU Berlin), the participants discussed how the notion of “hierarchies” can be theorized and how hierarchies shape International Relations. 

Following the examination of the notion of “hierarchies”, the conceptual reading of “hierarchies” was applied to the Network´s three work packages and the associated research projects, namely the work packages “Hierarchies and Violence” (3), “Hierarchies in Security Governance” (4) and “Hierarchies in Justice” (5). First in smaller groups, and then in a moderated discussion, the participants discussed how hierarchies influence the research conducted both on a theoretical and practical level and how these hierarchies might be deconstructed. The Think Lab´s sessions – one for each work package – linked theoretical ideas about postcolonial hierarchies to concrete case studies and research projects and also uncovered connections and overlaps between the different work packages and individual research projects.