Liberia: Legacies of Peace

Best Man Corner

Diamond Boys

Peace Hut

Pink Panther

540


The films are free to view and publicly available. To access, click on the individual film posters above.

SUMMARY

What does the everyday work of building peace after war entail? This documentary short film series, created and produced by Jaremey McMullin in 2019, profiles the people at every level of Liberian society engaged in the hard work of war-to-peace transition since the civil war there ended 17 years ago.

Peace is not an event; it’s an imperfect and unfinished process. Each of the five films in the series builds on this idea by identifying challenges and profiling the innovation and creativity of Liberians as they hustle to survive and build a future that is more just and sustainable than the past. The series is essential for those interested in understanding the successes and failures of contemporary peacebuilding and post-war reconstruction efforts. Each story is part of a critical effort to broaden the contributions to peace that get seen and recognized after war stops.

The series was produced to be both a research output and a teaching tool.

As a teaching tool, educators at all levels are invited to use the films inside and outside of their classrooms. Each film’s web page includes accompanying discussion questions and reading recommendations.

Are you using these films in your research or teaching? 

    As research outputs, the films are structured around critical questions about the study and practice of peacebuilding:

    Where is peace built? Is security sector reform located in a state’s police academies and army training centres, or in the squatter communities settled by those demobilized against their will? Does ex-combatant reintegration happen in temporary vocational training programmes or at the motorcycle taxi ranks where Liberia’s conflict-affected youth wait for passengers and hang out? Were peace and women’s equality achieved at the protest encampments of the 2003 Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace or within the Peace Huts established in their wake? Is gender mainstreaming evidenced through an aid organisation’s press release or through the simultaneous praise and critique from programme participants? Where peace gets located determines which peace actions get seen and by whom. The spatial practices of peacebuilding also determine which documents and texts count as peacebuilding data and how core concepts like sustainability, inclusivity, and consultation are imagined.

    Who builds peace? If peacebuilding is always unfinished, then to whom does the unfinished work of building peace fall? After UN peacekeepers withdraw and international funding shifts to new emergency contexts, by necessity multiple other actors step up. At the same time, each film aspires to narrate how everyday peacebuilding does not merely aim to fill a void left by the departure of the international. In other words, everyday peace draws on local knowledge systems that do not spring up just to supplement international interventions but are instead also alternative to international ways of knowing and doing peace. Everyday peace reflects the inevitable creativity, ingenuity, and tenacity that are mobilised to confront the precarity, inequality, marginalisation, and insecurity that follow the signing of peace agreements.

    When is peace? An analytical shift to the everyday calls into question the time horizons and temporal practices of peacebuilding. When the point of view shifts to the level of ordinary Liberians and the daily struggle to survive, the short-term focus on externally-designed benchmarks or timing of international withdrawal recedes, and different medium- and long-term challenges and priorities come into view.

    How is peacebuilding evaluated? Each film posits a shift in the measurements and objectives designed to evaluate peacebuilding. Each also critiques the standpoint from which peace tends to be evaluated, where state security and international stability get prioritised at the expense of different types and levels of evaluative understanding. The impacts and assumptions of international assistance efforts also come into clearer view when the evaluative focus shifts to individuals’ everyday encounters with those efforts, including their ideas about how to change and improve externally-led interventions.

    Where does research fit in? Researchers are privileged actors in determining which peacebuilders and which types of peace get prioritised, and how. The narrative and technical choices involved in filmmaking draw needed attention to issues such as reflexivity, positionality, research ethics, and the researcher’s role in reproducing knowledge claims and structuring impact activities. Producing and outputting research in different formats alters how subjects participate and collaborate in the research process, and impacts on how participation and collaboration get noticed by students, academics, and practitioners.

    To cite the film series:

    Liberia: Legacies of Peace. Documentary short film series. Directed and produced by Jaremey McMullin. 2019.

     

    To cite individual films in the series:

    Best Man Corner. Directed and produced by Jaremey McMullin. 2019.

    Diamond Boys. Directed and produced by Jaremey McMullin. 2019.

    Peace Hut. Directed and produced by Jaremey McMullin. 2019.

    Pink Panther. Directed and produced by Jaremey McMullin. 2019.

    540. Directed and produced by Jaremey McMullin. 2019.

    For requests to screen the films for larger audiences or to request other permissions, email Jaremey McMullin at J.McMullin@st-andrews.ac.uk.

    All other feedback welcome, too, including about how you have used the films in research, teaching, or other work.