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PhD Dissertation Defence: “Disempowered and Disappointed Locals: The Impact of Negative Hybrid Peacebuilding on Sociocultural Transformation of Afghanistan”

April 24 @ 9:30 am - 1:30 pm

Seyed Ali Hosseini‘s dissertation defence.


This dissertation conceptualizes peacebuilding in Afghanistan (2001-2021) as facilitation of sociocultural transformation of the country towards accepting the international norms important for sustainable peace, such as democracy, human rights, and gender equality. Hence, peacebuilding was highly normative and required enormous changes promoted by key peacebuilding actors to transform Afghan politics, society, and culture from a traditional society marked by fragmentation and radicalization to one that embraced these values.

The dissertation proposes that the peacebuilding effort that took place in post-2001 Afghanistan was hybrid, as the international community pursued the goals of building a state committed to these liberal principles, as well as strengthening civil society to bring about social and cultural development. Simultaneously, the political order, particularly the government titled the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, was seen as representative of the locals and their culture and was expected to protect their interests while adhering to international norms. The hybridity of peacebuilding for local society meant addressing social fragmentation and forms of radicalization, as well as assisting Afghan society in its adoption of modern norms and institutions consistent with its own society and culture.

Examining the reasons for, and the process of the failure of, sociocultural transformation, this dissertation, based on qualitative research methodology, proposes that due to the primacy of interests of powerful international and domestic actors, efforts to transform Afghanistan were undermined by a series of compromises on shared local and international values. The securitized neoliberal state-building assisted Afghan warlords and opportunist elites, starting from the deliberate ignorance or denial of transitional justice, and continued with the lack of accountability for major human rights violations and corruption in the Afghan government as well as among other domestic and foreign actors. This environment of lack of accountability undermined the perceived legitimacy of governance and the functioning of institutions and discredited other state and non-state actors working to transform Afghanistan. As a result, peacebuilding processes were frozen at the level of negativity, increasingly undermining local trust in international actors and their purported values.

To address the sociocultural dimension of peacebuilding, foreign actors engaged in top-down building of a Western-style civil society mostly focused on service delivery and advocacy rather than creating discourses among Afghans on issues critical for transformation of a society affected by decades of conflict and radicalism. The project-oriented approach of civil society groups, combined with their weak local roots and corruption, limited their effectiveness.

The negativity of peacebuilding prevented the potential of hybrid peacebuilding to address forms of fragmentation and radicalization in Afghan society, and hampered meaningful popular engagement in transforming structures of violence toward sustainability. The growing disempowerment and disillusionment of the people, coupled with confusion about norms, enabled the Taliban to frame their brutal campaign as jihad and to make even a negative peace unattainable.

Supervisor: Dr. Alistair Edgar
Committee: Dr. Timothy Donais and Dr. Jasmin Habib
Internal/External: Dr. Dejan Guzina
External: Dr. David Black, Dalhousie University
Chairperson Dr. Subhankar Nayak

There are limited spaces available to attend the defence. Email events@balsillieschool.ca if you would like to attend.

Seyed Ali Hosseini


April 24
9:30 am - 1:30 pm
Event Category:


Room 1-23
67 Erb Street West
Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2 Canada
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