Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type



International Relations

First Advisor

Jacqueline Braveboy-Wagner


Peacebuilding, Culture, Arts


Top-down coercive type of liberal peace building has characterized the interventions by international community in many post-conflict societies after the Second World War. Recent studies suggest that in order to build a more lasting peace a bottom-up, non-coercive approach is needed to balance the former and deal with the immediate needs of local communities. In approaching the question of how peace and reconstruction efforts can be made more sustainable, this thesis evaluates whether strategic arts-based programs with local content have the potential to build stronger communities by establishing peaceful resorts to settle daily disputes by participants. It further examines three such programs implemented by Search for Common Ground in Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and Nepal. By evaluating the available quantitative and qualitative data, this thesis shows that some arts-based programs are more effective in establishing peaceful ways of conflict resolution than others. Specifically, there is evidence that communities in Democratic Republic of Congo have learned and incorporated the new methods of conflict resolution in their daily lives presented to them during the participatory theater performances. However, the program in Yemen which used episodic drama, showed no effect on changing behaviors on a national level and had a limited impact on a local level. Similarly, the program in Nepal proved to be quite effective in transforming the attitudes of the people directly involved in the creation of the peace songs but showed no effects on the general public exposed to the songs via radio or TV. I conclude that there is reason to be hopeful that strategic arts programs can be useful in peace building, although more research needs to be done to find out how best to tailor such programs to each specific situation and to develop a more comprehensive framework to guide policymakers and peace builders around the world.



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