Coloniality of Peace

peace, coloniality, modern-liberal peaces, otherwise


Is there a universal peace? Historical and ongoing confrontations across the globe lay bare the bias of peace discourses: what peace is to one, can be oppression to another. In the light of this experience, activists and academics from the Global South have raised the issue of the coloniality of peace. The term describes how appeals to peace can be complicit with coloniality by supporting and reinforcing modern/colonial purposes of domination, control, and extraction, among others. To provide analytical tools to identify the coloniality of peace, this contribution builds on a range of critiques of ‘peace’ that have been enunciated from post- and decolonial stances. It includes three analytical steps: 1) acknowledging the plurality of potential peaces, 2) deconstructing modern-liberal peaces (which includes historizing peace, and tracing how it stabilizes the colonial power matrix) and 3) thinking ‘peaces’ otherwise, from and with subaltern perspectives. The focus of this contribution lies on the deconstruction of modern-liberal peaces by tracing how their basic premises inform the material, structural and epistemic order of coloniality. Central dimensions of that critique entail the reference to the nation-state, including its authority over law and order, knowledge production, and the politics of history, as well as an orientation towards economic growth in the liberal tradition. In essence, the coloniality of peace is a decolonial perspective to scrutinize dominant modern-liberal peaces which structure the international order, thus following on from recent criticisms of the liberal peace. The contribution sets out to outline this critique systematically and locate the function of the coloniality of peace in the modern/colonial system.

Paz - unstiching voices

“May the peace be like a feather… Beautiful, soft and resistant.”


The artwork was provided by (Un)Stiching gazes. The group is an interdisciplinary collective of reflection, research and praxis, which tells and collects stories of peace and encounters in Colombia, especially after the signing of the 2016 Peace Agreement. They do so through textile narrative, that is to say through threads, needles and fabrics.

Mahdis Azarmandi is a Senior Lecturer in Educational Studies and Leadership at the University of Canterbury, where she also serves as the co-coordinator for the Bachelor of Youth and Community Leadership program. Her research focuses on addressing the notable absence of race in peace and conflict studies, alongside examining the interplay between colonization, imperialism, and white supremacy in the context of peace and violence. 


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Christina Pauls is a doctoral researcher currently focusing on peace understandings and post-/decolonial memory activism. She works at the Chair of Political Science, Peace and Conflict Research at the University of Augsburg in the research network Conflicts.Meanings.Transitions.


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The interlinked climate, pollution and biodiversity crises are increasingly becoming the subject of peace and conflict studies and are playing an important role in peace work and conflict transformation through approaches such as environmental peacebuilding. In the context of societal relationships with nature in colonial modernity, however, the relationships between humans and the environment are usually only questioned in terms of their benefits, or in terms of their potential for causing or exacerbating conflicts and their consequences for humans. The interconnections between social and ecological challenges thereby are often disregarded. The underlying moral-anthropocentric paradigm can also be observed in peace and conflict research, which for example deals with the climate crisis as a security risk and threat to peace, with land grabbing, or with conflicts and wars over resources, which can at best be understood as symptoms of the causal modern/colonial societal relationships with nature. The ways of doing economics, of living and of being universalized in the wake of European
colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade resulted in a reinterpretation of nature as a resource without agency whose value depended solely on its (economic) usability for (former) colonial centers. The ensuing, as some scholars argue, increasing (geological) impact of human activity on Earth led to the suggestion of the Anthropocene as a new geological epoch. However, the interdisciplinary debates surrounding the Anthropocene have been and continue to be criticized by People of Color, Indigenous and Black scientists because the term obscures the effects of colonialism, capitalism and patriarchy in the context of the threefold planetary crisis by speaking of anthropos and humans as a homogenous geological force, following a universalizing and essentializing logic. Dealing with Peace in the Anthropocene needs to take this criticism into account and reflect on the moral anthropocentric paradigm underlying understandings of peace since the societal relationships with nature that emerged in Eurocentric knowledge systems and ontologies and were consolidated in colonial modernity, which are characterized by difference and domination, are constitutive for modern understandings of peace, violence and conflict.

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