Interstate conflicts world-wide fell in the last 50 years (Mack 2008) but conflicts within borders persist, even after decades of interventions. The dramatic gains in global security are especially contrasted in Southeast Asia, which remains afflicted by lingering internal conflicts that involve ethnic nationalists struggling for autonomy from central governments (Vatikiotis 2006). In this seminar, we examine why internal conflicts are called ‘new wars’ (Kaldor 1999) and described as ‘protracted’ (Azar, Jureidini, and McLaurin 1978), ‘deep-rooted’ (Burton 1987), and ‘intractable’ (Kriesberg, Northrup, and Thorson 1989). As each conflict is historically and context specific, we learn from cases of internal conflict in Southeast Asia, in particular, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and close attention to the Philippines. Conflicts in these cases have devastated, displaced and deprived populations, especially members identifying with specific ethnic and/or religious groups. A compelling reason to study internal conflict is thus to understand how they may end or transform. Peace negotiations across the world have rightly looked at the grievances that drive conflicts. But grievances are not enough to explain mounting conflict the world over (Tilly 1978), as ideologies, opportunities and resources for conflicting parties are important factors to consider and address. Peacebuilding is therefore not straightforward nor a neutral endeavour.

This seminar interrogates the concepts conflict and peace, contextualises internal conflicts in colonial legacies and the modern state formation, and considers various approaches used to study conflict and peace. Through case studies, participants can test approaches, critically identify problems, and explore ways forward. Ultimately, the seminar aims to inspire participants to understand political, economic, social aspects of conflicts and peace, and opens the space to reimagine conflict transformation in Southeast Asia.

Keywords: internal conflict, peacebuilding, Philippines, Southeast Asia

Semester: WiTerm 2022/23