Degree completed in 2017.

Creating spaces for peace? Civil society, political space and peacebuilding in post-war Burundi


Academic Profile

Rowan is a DPhil Candidate at the School of Geography and the Environment. She has been awarded an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) +3 Studentship to pursue her doctoral research on discourses on peace among local civil society groups in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

She has an MSc with Distinction in Violence, Conflict and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (2010-2011). Here, she focused on international discourses on conflict and sexual violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She holds a BA with First Class Honours in Development Studies and Politics from SOAS (2004-2007).

Rowan also works as a researcher at INTRAC (The International NGO Training and Research Centre), a civil society support organisation based in Oxford. Here she conducts policy research on a range of issues affecting civil society, civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including political and operational space for civil society, and civil society sustainability.

Previously, Rowan worked as a Policy Officer at the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund in Glasgow, where she conducted research, policy and advocacy work on a range of development and humanitarian issues, including conflict and gender-based violence in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

  • 2013 - 2016 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) +3 Studentship.

Current Research

Rowan's doctoral research critically examines discourses on peace among local civil society groups in the Great Lakes region of Africa. She is working with local civil society groups in two sites, Bujumbura in Burundi and Bukavu in eastern DRC. She is particularly interested in how discourses on peace among local groups are shaped by and shape local spaces of peace. Adopting a dialectical and relational view of discourse, space and power, her research deconstructs discourses to examine how they are produced, and how they shape spaces of peace, and the power relations that characterise them.

Burundi and DRC both have a long history of conflict and violence. While today these countries are often classified as post-conflict states, they continue to suffer from on going violence, low intensity conflict, and political repression. Peacebuilding interventions within the Great Lakes region have sought to promote a particular model of political, social and economic organisation, widely referred to as the liberal peace. However these interventions have been widely criticised, largely for their failure to secure a lasting and embedded peace in the region.

This has led to a renewed focus on local approaches to peace, particularly those among local civil society groups who exist on the margins of liberal peacebuilding discourse. These groups are often seen as a means of resisting dominant peacebuilding discourses and promoting a more sustainable and emancipatory peace across the region. However this is not always the case. Rowan's research problematizes this assumption through deconstructing local discourses on peace among local civil society groups and critically exploring their functions and effects.