International Centre for Violence Research
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Research Line 1: Parties, Passion, and Politics. Violence in Processes of Political Transformation

The aim of the research line is to investigate references and resorts to violence in discourses and practices of political transformation (democratisation): How do political parties and political movements conceive of violence as a political instrument that can be used to mobilise supporters (voters), to intimidate competitors (other candidates), and to discipline their cadres? The research line looks into parties and movements in five countries that belong to five different regions of world society: South Asia (Pakistan), Sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria), South America (Peru), and Central America (El Salvador). The research line is conceptualised as an inter-regional, small-n explorative design. Theoretically, violence is put into the context of contentious politics that may or may not involve resort to violence. The overall aim is to get insights into the role of violence in processes of political transformation that go beyond the simplistic dichotomies that dominate the literature on democratisation and peace building. The first leading question is whether and how such functionally defined non-state political entities (parties and movements, in government or opposition) conceive of violence as a political instrument that can be used to mobilise supporters (voters), to intimidate competitors (other candidates), and to discipline their cadres. The second leading question is whether perceptions and views materialise in (in-)actions of the entities in contentious situations.

Research Line Leader: B. Wilke


Case Studies

Salvadorean Gangs: Political Actors in the Making?

The debate on Salvadoran gangs is dominated by security issues, with little regard to gangs' interactions with political actors and their growing influence in Salvadoran society. This paper examines these gangs as violent entrepreneurs at the gates of politics, arguing that more than twenty years after the end of the civil war, they are using violence as a means of exerting pressure to get access to the political system. They are, therefore, political actors in the making, although their use of violence is still not entirely politically motivated.

Junior Researcher: M. H. Anzora (El Salvador)


Political Parties and Violence in Nigeria: The Case of Sokoto State (2007-2013)

The article examines how political parties in Sokoto state, Nigeria, used violence in electoral processes from 2007 to 2013. Using Tilly and Tarrow's concept of contentious politics, the concept of neo-patrimonialism and Schlichte's model of armed groups, the author finds finds that violence mostly assumed the form of clashes between rival party youths. While party elites manipulate youths, religious and traditional institutions are also dragged into partisan politics by the elites. However, it is also found that as a result of changes in party platforms, intraparty conflicts instigated large-scale interparty violence. In conclusion it can be said that party elites make use of violence as a tool for mobilization either to wrestle power from the governing party or to defend the status quo.

Junior Researcher: Y. T. Baba (Nigeria)


Understanding Linkages of Politics and Violence: The Case of Karachi

Political violence in Karachi is a source concern because of it being the economic backbone of Pakistan. Various waves of violence are observed in the city in past three decades which resulted into thousands of casualties. After the democratic transition of 2008, Karachi once again occupied headlines of local and global media for different episodes of violence. Karachi is known as mini-Pakistan because of ethnic diversity it carries. Population expansion in the city in the last decade at an extra ordinary pace made the problem of resources more acute. This scarcity of resources resulted into insecurities among different ethnic groups, which were exploited by different political parties to further their political agenda. This study tries to explain the violence in Karachi with reference to contentious issues, exist among different political actors of Karachi. It further investigates the causes of militancy among different political parties and its functions in terms of political gains. At last, it will discuss the dangers this element of violence poses to the sustainability of the democratic process.

Junior Researcher: M. Salman (Pakistan)


Consent for violence in the Time of Generals and Imams in Egypt

The study explores questions related to violence in contemporary Egypt, which finds itself in a process of political and social transformation. It is inspected how the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Muslims Brotherhood (MB), as the two principal actors, structure and influence violence, in particular the rights of life and death, since the unfolding of the Egyptian Revolution in January 25th, 2011. In particular, three significant violent events from 2011 until 2012 are investigated, and another event in 2013, the latter representing the peak of violence. It is argued that SCAF and MB manipulated the discourse on and the memory of these four events. As sites of violence, they have been used to draw fault lines of contentious and violent politics in Egypt. Both the military and the the religious party (MB) use violence in order to prevent any further socio-economic transformations. Violent acts have reduced the lives of many individuals to mere existence or survival. A SCAF-MB bifurcation has segregated social sphere. Both sides attempt to form their own mono narrative of 'History' and 'Memory' about sites of violence, in order to ultimately redefine 'Egypt' as a nation.

Junior Researcher: H. M. Al-Awady (Egypt)