Symbolic Politics for Peace

What do Zari, the first Afghan Muppet, Mandela’s rugby jersey, and the lunch menu served at the 2018 inter-Korea summit have in common? In this project, I bring together varied symbols—from food to fashion, from diplomatic gifts to schoolbooks, and from sports to museums—to focus on contexts of reconciliation and peacebuilding. I examine the symbols that state and non-state actors have deployed for local, national, and international reconciliation and peace; the considerations, deliberations and choices of actors engaged in such symbolic politics; and finally, the effectiveness of various peace- and reconciliation-centered symbols on target audiences. To answer these questions, I use document analysis and visual methodologies, as well as interviews and original field studies. In so doing, I aim to advance our knowledge about if and how ‘soft’ power has important implications for ‘hard’ peacebuilding politics, and to move forward effective conflict resolution, sustainable peacebuilding and statebuilding.