As a 2020 fellow of the African Peacebuilding Network (APN), I have developed great confidence in multidisciplinary approaches to research and knowledge production. This was facilitated through training, mentorship, networking, and publication opportunities offered by the fellowship award.
While my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law grounded me in positivist analytical approaches to knowledge, they did not prepare me for a multidimensional view of the world and, as such, multidisciplinary approaches to research and knowledge production. It was during my PhD studies that I fully realized that the law cannot and does not operate in a vacuum and that knowledge works best as part of a broader ecosystem. As a legal researcher who is passionate about peace and conflict prevention, I realized the centrality of the social and political sciences to this pursuit and that laws and policies on peace and conflict prevention must be grounded in the context of these disciplines. While I incorporated multidisciplinary perspectives into my PhD thesis, I still felt the need for confidence-building in my new research identity. I looked for and found ways to fill this gap through post-doctoral and research opportunities which were mostly available outside Africa. However, with these opportunities came the challenge and realization of epistemological hegemonies in the Global North knowledge production processes. This experience presented a new sense of exclusion and birthed in me a need for agency and community. This is where the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) came in as a platform of empowerment.
I came to learn of the APN and its opportunities for research fellowships through my social media page on human rights and peacebuilding in Africa. To say that I was elated by the discovery is an understatement. I immediately applied and was awarded a six-month individual research grant for my topic on nation-building and national dialogues in Rwanda and Uganda. My experience during the research fellowship was one of great confidence-building and constant learning. Through the program’s research training workshops, I presented my research proposal and received insights from mentors and fellow researchers around Afrocentric methodologies and analyses peculiar to the social and political sciences. I was also grouped in a workshop team of peers from Rwanda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia with whom I grew in friendship and collegiality. As a region, East Africa is unfortunately seeing a resurgence in violent conflict. These new friendships created during my fellowship are points of contact for context specific and afro-centric research collaborations on conflict resolution and sustainable peace building within the East African region and beyond.
I have also made acquaintance with two important people—Prof Gilbert Khadiagala and Dr. Cyril Obi—who I have come to view as mentors on my professional journey. They offered their time and guidance, recommended reading material, and offered comments, feedback, and editorial support through my research and writing process. Even with their seniority and extensive research experience, they offered mentorship with the utmost patience and understanding and without undermining my own agency and confidence as a junior researcher. Through their support and through the APN fellowship, I was able to complete my research and publish an APN working paper under the title: A Double-Edged Sword: Examining the Role of the State in National Dialogues as Mechanisms of Nation-building in Uganda and Rwanda. The paper draws on social and political concepts and analysis and is a major confidence boost for my ability to publish in these disciplines. In fact, the working paper is my very first attempt at publication outside of the legal field. I plan to present this paper to students of political science and conflict studies at the University of Copenhagen in October 2022 as part of an ongoing collaboration with Makerere University in Uganda where I currently work as a researcher. I also plan to later publish the working paper as an article in an African peer-reviewed journal in the field of the political and social sciences. I am currently developing other journal articles on violence, gender, and militarization, where I plan to also adopt a multidisciplinary perspective. I am confident that if I approach Dr. Obi or Prof. Khadiagala, they would be willing to offer some guidance on account of what I believe is a long-term mentor-mentee relationship whose foundation was laid by the APN.
This newfound confidence in multidisciplinarity has enabled me to accept a committee membership role for selecting the Best Book Award by a Female Scholar established by the Peace Studies Section of the International Studies Association (ISA). It has also enabled me to contribute to a forthcoming ISA Special Issue Journal on Knowledge Production on Peace,1International Affairs, https://academic.oup.com/ia where I offer a critique of hegemonic Global North approaches to knowledge production on state violence in Uganda and Africa and how this reproduces exclusion and undermines the agency of direct victims of state violence and thus of the state in international relations. It is my hope and intention that by grounding myself in multidisciplinarity and decoloniality, I am better positioned to contribute to African Peace Studies and recognize and push back against hegemonies in more authentic and productive ways. This can best be achieved through constant communion, mentorship, and dialogue with fellow peace researchers in Africa through platforms such as the APN, where lived realities inform the knowledge production process.
Being confident in multidisciplinary approaches to peace studies is especially important for my career and professional advancement. As a part-time lecturer at Makerere University’s School of Law, I am already deploying multidisciplinary approaches in my method of instruction and the APN has been a major part of this decision. I am optimistic that this will give me a competitive advantage in my ongoing application for a permanent lecturing position at the School of Law’s department of jurisprudence where multidisciplinary approaches to legal knowledge are key.
The APN offers unique opportunities to young African peace researchers who feel excluded by Global North hegemonies and lack access to funds with which to conduct research on their terms and grow their agency and confidence in Afrocentric knowledge production processes. The APN should protect and advance this noble cause by, among other initiatives, organizing local conferences or workshops to empower and attract more young African peace researchers to the field. As an alumnus, I would be happy to support such initiatives through organizing, publicizing, and mobilizing support and participation.
- 1International Affairs, https://academic.oup.com/ia