Critical Peacebuilding and the Dilemma of Difference: The Stigma of the ‘Local’ and the Quest for Equality

Xavier Mathieu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent research has revealed the need to include and understand local actors in order to improve the effectiveness of peacebuilding. A greater respect of the local is presented as a consequence of a genuine engagement with its specificity and difference. Empirical studies of the ‘different’ local have thus flourished in the field with the ambition of countering the universalist tendency of traditional peacebuilding. Through the use of the concept of ‘dilemma of difference’, this article challenges this intuitive argument and shows that these approaches risk reproducing a stigma attached to the different local. Indeed, emphasising difference in order to ensure its respect means separating and reifying ‘it’ as a deviation from the norm(al) and therefore reproducing the stigma that produced its exclusion in the first place. In contrast, I outline three strategies for studying difference differently in peacebuilding: focusing on the institutional arrangements that enabled specific differences to emerge and become visible; recognising that these differences are internal to peacebuilding (and thus an unlikely source of alternative and emancipation); and revealing the unstated and implicit Self for/from whom local difference is relevant.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-52
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number1
Early online date3 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Third World Quarterly on 3 Dec 2018, available online at:


  • peacebuilding
  • difference
  • local
  • interventions
  • identity
  • stigma


Dive into the research topics of 'Critical Peacebuilding and the Dilemma of Difference: The Stigma of the ‘Local’ and the Quest for Equality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this