Current Institutional Affiliation
Geography, University of California / Los Angeles

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2017
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Geography, University of California / Los Angeles
Insurgent Peace: An Ethnography of Peacebuilding among Indigenous Peoples in Sagada, Philippines

In a global era when wars are no longer fought between states, how do people make peace? In the Philippines, indigenous peoples of Sagada declared their community as a peace zone in 1988 and banned the entry of the military and the New People's Army, a rebel group waging the world's longest Maoist insurgency. For 28 years, the indigenous community of Sagada has effectively refused military and rebel presence and disarmed the local police, preventing war-related civilian deaths and displacement. While existing research on peace zones identifies Sagada as a "best practice" model for other countries, we know very little of the work required from the community that sustains this model. Through ethnography, this project investigates what I call "insurgent peace" as dynamic socio-spatial processes through which civilians collectively refuse war and protect their lives, particularly when state and non-state actors fail to do so. It explores 1) the quotidian work required from the indigenous community of Sagada in maintaining the "peace zone"; 2) the histories, values, and norms that the community draws upon to do so; and 3) the strategic relationships and interactions among civilians, state, and non-state actors. At stake in this project is a reconceptualization of peace beyond its definition of the absence of violence, and peacebuilding as a state project of conflict transformation. Preliminary research in Sagada reveals that peace also relies upon the daily, complex, and inventive work of civilian communities. With the current number of war-related civilian deaths reaching its highest since the end of the Cold War, governments, international institutions, and scholars around the world today are grappling with how best to protect civilian lives during war. This critical juncture renders Sagada, Philippines an important site to study grassroots peace practices and to renew our understanding of peace that is relevant to the emergent geopolitical conditions of our time.