Research

Participating scholars study a wide range of issues from a broad set of perspectives.
PACS supports three lines of research in particular:

Violence and Climate: An Ecological Perspective

With the emergence of cultural and ecological perspectives on aggression, violence, conflict management and peace, we see within (and beyond) psychology a greater attention for local and global phenomena. For example, there is now a greater attention for scientific understanding of trust and distrust within societies, corruption and norm violations at national levels, as well as cooperation within and between societies. There is also greater attention for ecological variables, such as climate, especially thermal demands, and threats such as pathogen prevalence, or political-economic variables such as wealth and income inequality. This is timely, because most of us would agree that war and peace are local and global phenomena.

What is lacking at present is an understanding of how the ecological variables, alone and in combination, might help us explain aggression and violence, as well as conflict management, communication and peace-making, around the world. This new global direction to war and peace holds promise because there are massive differences within and between countries in aggression and violence, as well as in variables such as trust and religiosity.

There have been some efforts to “connecting the dots” around the world – seeking to explain aggression and violence in terms of climate and other variables. One case in point is a model of Climate, Aggression, and Self-Control in Humans (CLASH). The model adopts a global perspective to aggression and violence by emphasizing the role of climate and other ecological variables in shaping culture and human behavior. Colder temperatures, and especially larger degrees of seasonal variation in climate, call for individuals and groups to adopt a slower life history strategy, revealed in a greater focus on the future (vs. present) and a stronger focus on self-control—variables that are known to inhibit aggression and violence. Other variables (e.g., wealth, income inequality, pathogen prevalence) are also linked to both climate differences and to aggression and violence differences.

The purpose of the present proposal is to examine the independent and interactive influences of climate (especially thermal demands), wealth, income inequality, pathogen prevalence, religiosity and other variables (e.g., migration patterns) on aggression and violence between groups around the world. A central question is how we can understand the immense variation in aggression and violence, especially between groups, around the world. In addition to the ecological variables listed above, we also seek to explore historical variables such as degree of colonialism, as well as more recent differences in climate change.

Research team: Prof.Dr. Paul van Lange, Prof.Dr. Hein Daanen & Prof.Dr. Wouter Botzen


International Norm Violations, Punishment and War

Why do people inflict harm on others? This question has been at the center of peace and conflict studies from its very inception. Whereas many have emphasized interests and rationality, others have pointed to emotions as driving forces for the use of violence. Hate, honor, greed, humiliation, fear and revenge have been amongst the emotions identified as unleashing aggressive behavior.

This research line builds on this research but focuses on a practice that has been neglected and understudied: punishment, i.e. the intentional infliction of harm against someone or an entity (a state) that violated a social norm. Social psychologists have demonstrated that punitive instincts are hard-wired, which implies that they are there to stay for the foreseeable future. At the same time, historians, ethnographers and social scientists have shown that punitive practices differ enormously across time and space. What is more, there are reasons to believe that punitive practices have become more humanitarian.

Whereas the majority of research has focused on the transformation of punitive practices and criminal justice reform within states, punitive motives of using force internationally have hardly been examined. We see great potential in examining punitive practices in international law, governance and politics and to study the role of politics and international organisations in deligitimising some forms of punishment and accepting others. The main research question we want to study is twofold: Empirically, we examine the role of punitive motives in the current use of force by states and international organisations. Although we do not claim that all uses of armed force result from punitive motivations, we think that many decisions to use force have been partly motivated by outrage about violations of core community norms (such as genocide; ethnic cleansing or the development or use of weapons of mass destruction). Since the end of the Cold War, we have seen a strengthening of international norms about the use of violence (e.g. the Responsibility to Protect or the criminalization of aggression), which raises the question whether these norms can be upheld and enforced without using force. Normatively, we are interested whether the punitive drives that can be channeled in a way that make them socially productive, or at least minimize the harm they often bring about. Historically, we focus on changes and differences over time: has punishment really become more humanitarian?

Research team: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wagner, Dr. Jan Willem van Prooijen, Linet Durmusoglu, Prof. Dr. Wouter Werner, Dr. Barbora Hola & Dr. Ronald Kroeze


The role of cultural, political/legal, and religious actors in the construction of narratives of polarization and/or transformation for post-conflict generations

The project will analyse the role of lived religion in the construction, transmission, and appropriation of narratives of past conflicts in post-conflict societies, identifying factors that contribute to either polarization or peacebuilding, reconciliation, and democracy among young people. The unique theoretical contribution of this project is its focus on the role of lived religion embedded in the cultural and political/legal processes of societies in transition.

The project specifically studies the role of cultural, political/legal, and religious actors in the construction of narratives that lead to polarisation and/or transformation of post-conflict generations. It focuses on four contexts with recent major societal transitions towards reconciliation and/or democracy, which showed quite ambivalent results: Colombia, South Africa, Indonesia, and the Post-Yugoslav countries. The four contexts are deliberately chosen to represent four different continents, markedly different religio-political configurations, different types of conflict and violence, and they are in different stages of transition.

Narratives of the conflicts in these four cases are constructed and transmitted by public actors and in public (media) discourse. In all the contexts, religious actors contribute to the formation of these narratives, sometimes contradicting the political powers, sometimes supporting them. These narratives are appropriated (received and refigured) by the post-conflict generation.

By polarisation we mean the construction of oppositional identities, which are apparent in divisive public discourses by elite actors and/or continued or increased residential or educational segregation, among other factors. By transformation we mean re-formulations of identities, narratives, and social and political structures in ways that challenge or transcend oppositional identities. In the four contexts both state-led processes and grassroots projects (sometimes including, sometimes excluding religious actors and communities) have been implemented to promote healing and reconciliation, juxtaposed with efforts by political, cultural, and religious leaders to produce oppositional and divisive discourses.

The project applies cross-cultural analysis in an innovative mixed-method´s design that will allow to unravel the full narrative process of construction, transmission, and appropriation. In each of the four case studies, the project will collect and analyse narratives of historical reconstruction in schoolbook texts and public media, and interview religious, political, cultural, and community leaders.

These narratives will be compared with the narratives of the younger generation, since their future is shaped by these narratives and they have to adopt or dismiss the narratives of their “parents”. The project will compare groups of young people with a history at different sides of the conflict line and analyse their exchanges.

Research team: Prof. Dr. Eddy van den Borght, Prof. Dr. Fernando Enns, Prof. Dr. Ruard Ganzevoort & Dr. Srdjan Sremac