The Limits of Hybridity and the Crisis of Liberal Peace

By Suthaharan Nadarajah, SOAS University of London and David Rampton, London School of Economics (LSE).


Abstract


Hybridity has emerged recently as a key response in IR and peace studies to the crisis of liberal peace. Attributing the failures of liberal peacebuilding to a lack of legitimacy deriving from uncompromising efforts to impose a rigid market democratic state model on diverse populations emerging from conflict, the hybrid peace approach locates the possibility of a ‘radical’, post-liberal and emancipatory peace in the agency of the local and the everyday and ‘hybrid’ formations of international/liberal and local/non-liberal institutions, practices and values. However, this article argues, hybrid peace, emerging as an attempt to resolve a problem of difference and alterity specific to the context in which the crisis of liberal peacebuilding manifests, is a problem-solving tool for the encompassment and folding into globalising liberal order of cultural, political and social orders perceived as radically different and obstructionist to its expansion. Deployed at the very point this expansion is beset by resistance and crisis, hybrid peace reproduces the liberal peace’s logics of inclusion and exclusion, and through a reconfiguration of the international interface with resistant ‘local’ orders, intensifies the governmental and biopolitical reach of liberal peace for their containment, transformation and assimilation.


Keywords: hybridity, liberalism, nationalism, liberal peace, peace building, Sri Lanka.


Introduction

Hybridity has emerged recently as a key response in IR and peace studies to the crisis of liberal peace. As a universalising modality in the wider architecture of a globally expansive liberal order, liberal peace achieved an intensified preeminence in the 1990s and new millennium, even as its advance suffered critical setbacks. Amid the often fragile and illiberal outcomes of international peacebuilding, various resistances such as the post-9/11 transnational insurgency brought to fore the coercive character of liberal order making, exemplified by the Global War on Terror and interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is in this context that a supposedly novel and emancipatory turn to inter-connected hybrid, post-liberal, local, everyday and popular peacebuilding approaches has been ventured, claiming to eschew the orthodoxies and statist, territorial logic of mainstream liberal peacebuilding and instead locating the possibility of peace in the agency of the local and the everyday, and ‘hybrid’ formations of liberal (international) and non-liberal (local) institutions, practices and values.1 However, claims to both novelty and a break with liberal peace orthodoxy are premature. Not only has the liberal peace itself long sought to engage with the local and other decentered or non-state forms as a deliberate transitional strategy of peace-, nation- and state-building, 2 but, as an emergent critique notes, the hybrid peace approach reproduces the Eurocentrism, dualisms and hierarchies inherent to liberal peace; neglects the import of economic and social structures by locating the barriers to peace at the cognitive or ideational level; and overlooks how liberal peace has become structured into the very normative order of the international.


The critique advanced in this article focuses on the motor of hybrid peace – hybridity itself. It argues that hybrid peace, emerging as an attempt to resolve a problem of difference and alterity specific to the context in which the crisis of liberal peacebuilding manifests, is a problem-solving tool for the encompassment and folding into global liberal order of cultural, political and social orders perceived as radically different and obstructionist to its expansion. Deployed at the very point this expansion is beset by resistance and crisis, hybrid peace reproduces the liberal peace’s logics of inclusion and exclusion, and through a reconfiguration of the international interface with resistant ‘local’ orders, intensifies the governmental and biopolitical reach of liberal peace for their containment, transformation and assimilation.


Through a selective engagement with hybridity that neglects the multilectical character of hybridisation and the long durée timeframe through which hybridity manifests, and instead concentrating on the contemporary dynamics in a presentist fashion, the hybrid peace approach fails to take seriously the historical co-constitution of the international, national and local and the relations of power that connect these in both peace and conflict. Instead, despite numerous caveats, the deployment of hybridity as a modality of peace turns on and produces a romanticised positioning of the local/everyday as the antithesis of the international and an also problematic effacement of the national, thereby obscuring the role of hybridity, the local and the everyday in the reproduction of oppression, contestation and violence, and how peace and conflict are not discrete phenomena but deeply interwoven in forms of political contestation and antagonism produced within overlapping and co-constituting liberal, nationalist and other assemblages.


The article proceeds through five sections. The first sets out the context of crisis in liberal order making in which the turn to hybridity in IR and peace studies has emerged as a claimed critical and emancipatory response. The second examines the discursive recurrence of hybridity in the social sciences and identifies some immediate problems with its latest incarnation, hybrid peace. The third delineates and critiques core concepts and assumptions common to the post-liberal, hybrid and quotidian approach to peace, showing how it shares important commonalities with the liberal peace orthodoxy it defines itself against, including a liberal politics of inclusion and exclusion. The fourth section shows how the neat divisions between the local/everyday and the international/liberal inherent to hybridity-aspeace rests on a romanticised and at times orientalised reading of the local and everyday as spaces divorced from the national and expressive of the indigenous, authentic and legitimate, a construction formed through the discourse of hybrid peace itself. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of its arguments.


Keep reading here

Suggested Citation:

Nadarajah, Suthaharan and Rampton, David, The Limits of Hybridity and the Crisis of Liberal Peace (February 18, 2014). Review of International Studies 41(1): pp 49 – 72. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2842296

  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black Facebook Icon

© 2020 by Talking About Terrorism.  

  • Twitter Social Icon
  • LinkedIn Social Icon