On 25 January, we had the pleasure to listen to two fascinating presentations by our Hub members Jaremey McMullin and Evelyn Pauls on documentary in peacebuilding. We have recorded the session and you can watch it on the Hub’s YouTube channel.
Evelyn kicked the session of with a presentation on her documentary project of female combatants experiences which she summarised as follows: Despite the fascination with female fighters in the international media, there is still limited knowledge about how female combatants see themselves and how their conflict experiences shape their lives after war. Women’s participation in armed conflict is often dismissed and depoliticized, emphasizing either their role as victims or as peacemakers. This project contributes to a body of literature that foregrounds the diverse voices of ex-combatant women, as a particular group who challenged traditional gender norms during conflict. Their narratives complicate the simplistic and limited depictions of female combatants and instead reveal a multi-layered and complex account of how communities of female ex-combatants frame their wartime experiences and daily lives today. The project builds on participatory documentary filmmaking as a feminist method to make female combatants’ experiences in conflict visible without extracting knowledge or speaking on their behalf.
In this presentation Evelyn talked about setting up the second phase of the project, which will focus on more recent conflict contexts: Colombia and Uganda and discuss the challenges, complexities, and possibilities of using participatory filmmaking as an approach. But check out the documentary and booklet from the first phase of the project in Aceh, Burundi, Mindanao and Nepal.
Following Evelyn’s presentation, Jaremey talked about ‘Filmmaking with Conflict-Affected Youth in Liberia’s Motorcycle Taxi Sector’ which he described as follows: What does it mean to ‘do film’ and ‘do research’ at the same time. The discussion will focus on the conceptual, theoretical, and ethical challenges and possibilities that come into focus when we film encounters, interviews, observations, and other aspects of research work and when we output that work in multi-modal ways. Film in turn might also open up additional opportunities for what our institutional overlords and disciplinary colleagues sometimes call knowledge dissemination and impact generation.
Filmmaking, as a potentially granular, tactile, and ethnographic labour and craft, might also reveal what the everyday work of building peace after war entails, and how academic knowledge production practices (re)produce and make (in)visible different features of the post-war imaginary. I hope to contextualise the spatial and temporal experiences that constitute the everyday experiences of life within a particular built peace environment, by collating and analyzing a cluster of narrative insights collected through interviews with conflict-affected Liberian youth at one of Monrovia’s many motorcycle taxi ranks. There might be value in doubling these insights, in reading written and filmic texts alongside each other, opening up space to think about excess, unfinished, and alternative narration of post-war space-time. Unless academic knowledge about the lives, words, and beliefs of distant research participants draws attention to itself as a particular narrative form that (re)produces concrete spatio-temporal effects, it is unlikely to de-colonise much for very long.
Have a look at Jaremey’s research page, Motorcycling as Peacebuilding, and to view any of the films that comprise a short documentary film series, Liberia: Legacies of Peace (especially, Best Man Corner). The truly ambitious can also check out ‘Hustling, cycling, peacebuilding’ in this month’s Review of International Studies (currently free/open access).