Research Training Workshop: Nature of peace-building and field research in regions of conflict.

On November 2nd, a public lecture by Ms. Megumi Kagawa was held at the Graduate School of International Relations. Ms. Kagawa, a lecturer at the Faculty of Science and Technology at Keio University, is an expert on peacebuilding with a research focus on the Southern Philippines. More specifically, her focus concerns the role of rebel groups in the peace- and statebuilding context. Throughout her career, Ms. Kagawa has consulted intergovernmental organizations and has acquired substantial research experience over several years in regions of ongoing conflict.

By embodying her unique academic experience in her guest lecture, Ms. Kagawa has highlighted the depressingly complex, while nonetheless very exciting nature of peacebuilding and field research in regions of conflict. Through her integration into local communities in Mindanao (the Philippines) over several years, Ms. Kagawa was able to receive a rare and deep insight and understanding about the social as well as psychological circumstances of the locals. Such insights include the socio-economic role of weapons and the industries established around them in regions of conflict; the traumata of the victims of civil war; and the difficulties of negotiating stable cease fires, let alone peace agreements while including all warring parties.

The above are only three of the myriad of factors Ms. Kagawa analyzed in the context of statebuilding and ongoing security sector reforms. Several lessons can be obtained from her lecture. First, that research ethics are not mere academic manners but also ensure the psychological wellbeing of those researched; second, that empathy and a deep understanding of the local rites, as well as blending in by adapting to respective contextualities is key for a sound and representative research; and third, that the situation on the ground in regions of conflict and post-conflict are considerably more complicated than the oftentimes simplified empirical sections in textbooks on peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Overall, Ms. Kagawa’s lecture was not only inspiring for the graduate students at Ritsumeikan University, but moreover an invaluable academic enrichment for all those who were present.

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