The Conflict Family: Storytelling as an Activity and a Method for Locally Led, Community‐Based Peacebuilding

Date01 June 2017
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1002/crq.21189
Published date01 June 2017
C R Q, vol. 34, no. 4, Summer 2017 431
© 2016 Association for Confl ict Resolution and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21189
T h e C o n ict Family: Storytelling as an Activity
and a Method for Locally Led, Community-Based
Peacebuilding
Ja smine R. Linabary
Arunima Krishna
Stacey L. Connaughton
Researchers and practitioners are beginning to look to community-based
participatory research ( CBPR ) approaches in their eff orts to address
social problems with those directly aff ected by them. Yet additional
methods and tools are needed. In this article, we propose storytelling as
a participatory method in the context of peacebuilding. Drawing on
the Confl ict Family, an example of cultural storytelling from a locally
led peacebuilding initiative in Ghana, we illustrate the ways in which
storytelling emerged as a co-constructed, culturally relevant, collabora-
tive, refl exive, and memorable participatory strategy that functioned as
a catalyst for action. Storytelling helped create a dialogic space for par-
ticipants to discuss land disputes in their communities.  is study con-
tributes to what is known about storytelling by showcasing how cultural
storytelling can promote local citizens’ ownership for CBPR approaches.
It also reveals the ways storytelling can serve as a CBPR method that
encourages a relational orientation and the co-construction of meaning,
as well as inspire transformation among local citizens, particularly in
confl ict situations and peacebuilding contexts.
is article was submitted to the 2015 conference of the National Communication Associa-
tion, where it received a top paper award in the Peace & Confl ict Division. We thank Milton
Lauenstein for his support of the Purdue Peace Project. For more information on the Purdue
Peace Project, contact Stacey Connaughton, Brian Lamb School of Communication, Purdue
University: sconnaug@purdue.edu .
432 LINABARY, KRISHNA, CONNAUGHTON
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21189
S cholars face a growing call to address social problems ranging from
the specifi c challenges of individual communities to broader health,
economic, social, and political issues (Dempsey and Barge 2014 ; Flyv-
bjerg 2001 ). One response to such calls has been a burgeoning inter-
est in engaged scholarship, defi ned as “a diff use fi eld of logics, practices,
and projects brought together by a concern with fostering participative
modes of scholarly inquiry that meaningfully address practical concerns”
(Dempsey and Barge 2014 , 667). In seeking approaches for engaged
praxis, some scholars have turned to community-based participatory
research (CBPR), a research approach that lends itself to helping to
address social problems that matter to communities with those commu-
nities rather than for them.
One engaged research area that would benefi t from the application of
CBPR approaches is peacebuilding—specifi cally, political violence preven-
tion. For decades, peacebuilding and confl ict resolution scholars have called
for a multilevel (Lederach 1995 ), “peacebuilding from below” approach to
confl ict resolution, following the failure of “elite-led negotiations” in con-
ict situations (Pearce 2005 , 42). Part of that argument is that community
members’ knowledge and experience play an integral role in informing
why confl ict and violence are likely to occur and the ways in which con-
ict and violence may be prevented. It would seem, then, that applying a
CBPR approach to peacebuilding and political violence prevention would
be a natural and synergistic extension for the fi eld.
Although we advance this general argument here, we believe that
CBPR scholars need to address some concerns, including those related to
a genuine focus on culture and cultural relevance (Dutta 2007 ) and the
ownership of project processes and outcomes (Peterson 2010 ). Lack of
both cultural relevance and ownership from local citizens is problematic
for CBPR approaches as they may result in communities’ lack of accep-
tance or outright rejection of strategies that emerge from the collaboration
between community and researcher.
Accordingly, in this article, we propose the use of storytelling, specifi -
cally cultural storytelling, as an activity for addressing these issues in the
CBPR process and as a method for co-constructing meaning and encour-
aging dialogue that could lead to productive action toward social change.
In doing so, we explicate storytelling as a CBPR method to encour-
age co-construction of meaning and transformation among community
members, particularly in confl ict situations and peacebuilding contexts.
Although CBPR scholars have discussed storytelling to achieve similar goals

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