Walls as a Nonviolent Strategy in Armed Conflict
31 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2016 Last revised: 12 Sep 2016
Date Written: September 7, 2016
This paper examines walls as an intentional strategy utilized by nonviolent community activists for protection during armed conflicts. Whether constructed and enforced by state institutions, international organizations, or civilian groups, walls are more than physical barriers. Their social significance reinforces their physical presence and they can therefore be powerful symbols that demarcate physical, political, social, and humanitarian boundaries. While they can keep populations safe, they can also reinforce divisions between them. We explore the logics behind new cases of humanitarian walls that nonviolent civilian communities create and maintain within conflict zones in Buenaventura, Colombia. We contrast how these walls differ in their functions and effectiveness with those used by states and militaries as strategic tools for counterinsurgency (in Iraq) or post-conflict reconciliation (in Northern Ireland). We also examine how these physical structures are used in conjunction with armed community-based protection and resistance (in Peru and Mexico). Walls as a nonviolent strategy are still new and little studied, but with sufficient social backing and in the right settings they offer a promising approach for community activists.
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