Land Grabbing and NGO Advocacy in Liberia: A Deconstruction of the ‘Homogeneous Community"


Gilfoy, Kieran. 2015. “Land Grabbing and NGO Advocacy in Liberia: A Deconstruction of the ‘homogeneous Community.’” African Affairs 114 (455): 185–205. doi:10.1093/afraf/adu078.


Author: Kieran Gilfoy


The literature on the “new global land grab” has to date been preoccupied with macro and theoretical studies, resulting in a lack of in-depth local studies. This article uses a Liberian case study and quasi-anthropological methods to address this imbalance. In Liberia, historical confrontations over resource access that are tied to issues of land ownership have been given new life by the interjection of a Malaysian palm oil corporation. Elders, as the biggest potential losers in the confiscation of land, have successfully linked themselves to NGOs and transnational advocacy campaigns that publicize land grabbing and pressure for international standards and compliance. At the same time, young men who largely came of age during the civil war have been rendered invisible and palpably frustrated. In exploring the generational divide that has characterized the Sime Darby plantation, this article not only reveals that land grabbing has its supporters as well as its detractors, but also unmasks the role that NGO advocacy networks play in local politics and in shaping the narratives that the wider world hears about the response of African communities to new development trends. 


Topics: Civil Wars, Development, Extractive Industries, Land Grabbing, NGOs, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2015

African Conflicts and Informal Power : Big Men and Networks


Utas, Mats, ed. 2012. African Conflicts and Informal Power : Big Men and Networks. Zed Books Ltd. 

Author: Mats Utas


In the aftermath of an armed conflict in Africa, the international community both produces and demands from local partners a variety of blueprints for reconstructing state and society. The aim is to re-formalize the state after what is viewed as a period of fragmentation. In reality, African economies and polities are very much informal in character, with informal actors, including so-called Big Men, often using their positions in the formal structure as a means to reach their own goals. Through a variety of in-depth case studies, including the DRC, Sierra Leone and Liberia, African Conflicts and Informal Power shows how important informal political and economic networks are in many of the continent's conflict areas. Moreover, it demonstrates that without a proper understanding of the impact of these networks, attempts to formalize African states, particularly those emerging from wars, will be in vain (WorldCat).


Part one: Country Case Studies

  1. Informal political structures, resources and the Ugandan army; military entrepreneurialism in the Ugandan-Congolese borderland - Koen Vlassenroot and Sandrine Perot
  2. Big Man Business in the Borderland of Sierra Leone - Maya Mynster Christensen
  3. The politics of impersonation: Corps habillés, Nouchis, and subaltern Bigmanity in Côte d’Ivoire - Karel Arnaut
  4. Demobilized or remobilized? Liberia’s remaining rebel structures in post-war security settings - Mariam Persson
  5. Castles in the sand’: Informal networks and power brokers in the Northern Mali periphery - Morten Böås


Part 2: Thematic Case Studies


  1. Critical states and cocaine connections - By Henrik Vigh
  2. African Big Men and international criminal justice: the case of Sierra Leone - By Gerhard Anders
  3. Big Man bargaining in African conflicts - By Ilmari Käihkö
  4. Intermediaries of peace or agents of war: the role of ex-midlevel commanders in Big Man networks - By Anders Themnér
  5. The Big Men commanding conflict resources in Africa: the DRC case - By Ruben de Koning

Topics: Armed Conflict, DDR, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Africa, Central Africa, West Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone

Year: 2012

International Human Rights, Gender-Based Violence, and Local Discourses of Abuse in Postconflict Liberia: A Problem of "Culture"?


Abramowitz, Sharon, and Mary H. Moran. 2012. “International Human Rights, Gender-Based Violence, and Local Discourses of Abuse in Postconflict Liberia: A Problem of ‘Culture’?” African Studies Review 55 (2): 119–46. 


Authors: Sharon Abramowitz, Mary H. Moran


In this article we draw on three years of ethnographic observation of postconflict humanitarian intervention in Liberia to consider the process whereby global efforts in the areas of gender-based violence (GBV) and human rights are interacting with local debates over kinship, entitlement, personal rights, and social responsibility. This article draws upon Liberian narratives, complaints, and efforts to regulate, in a national context, social norms and behavior in regard to gender-based violence issues in postconflict life while also engaging with an ongoing international human rights discourse on the subject of GBV. Our ethnography takes a multiscalar approach to give a sense of the process, multiple discourses, and dialectics of power involved in this issue, and to demonstrate how the definition of “the GBV problem” in Liberia, the target of complex GBV interventions, is different from the conception held by agencies, governmental ministries, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are responsible for implementing global mandates.

Topics: Gender-Based Violence, Post-Conflict Governance, Humanitarian Assistance, NGOs, Post-Conflict, Rights, Human Rights Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2012

The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia


Hoffman, Danny. 2011. The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Cultures and Practice of Violence. Duke University Press.


Author: Danny Hoffman


"In The War Machines, Danny Hoffman considers how young men are made available for violent labor both on the battlefields and in the diamond mines, rubber plantations, and other unregulated industries of West Africa. Based on his ethnographic research with militia groups in Sierra Leone and Liberia during those countries’ recent civil wars, Hoffman traces the path of young fighters who moved from grassroots community-defense organizations in Sierra Leone during the mid-1990s into a large pool of mercenary labor.

Hoffman argues that in contemporary West Africa, space, sociality, and life itself are organized around making young men available for all manner of dangerous work. Drawing on his ethnographic research over the past nine years, as well as the anthropology of violence, interdisciplinary security studies, and contemporary critical theory, he maintains that the mobilization of West African men exemplifies a global trend in the outsourcing of warfare and security operations. A similar dynamic underlies the political economy of violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a growing number of postcolonial spaces. An experienced photojournalist, Hoffman integrates more than fifty of his photographs of young West Africans into The War Machines."

(Duke University Press)

Annotation: Illustrations ix Preface xi Acknowledgments xxiii Introduction: War Machines 1 I. Histories 1. The Mano River War: A Chronology 27 2. Hunters, Lumpens, and War Boys: A Social History of the Kamajors 55 3. States of Conflict: A Social History of the Kamajors Continued 88 II. Building The Barracks 4. Big Men, Small Boys 127 5. The Barracks 162 6. The Hotel Kamajor 194 7. The Magic of War 224 Conclusion: A Laboratory of the Future 252 Notes 261 Bibliography 273 Index 289

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Livelihoods, Security, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone

Year: 2011

Men and Women as Conservation Partners in Conflict Settings


Ajroud, Brittany, Kame Westerman, and Janet Edmond. 2015. “Men and Women as Conservation Partners in Conflict Settings.” Peace Review 27 (2): 175–80. doi:10.1080/10402659.2015.1037622.


Authors: Brittnay Ajroud, Kame Westernman, Janet Edmond


The article highlights two field-based examples in Liberia and Timor Leste of how Conservation International (CI) promotes natural resource conservation that supports collaboration, inclusive of both men and women's unique knowledge, needs and interests. Topics include how inclusive conservation can play a critical role in bringing fractured communities together as well as the need to understand the gender dynamics at play and to balance Western and local traditions of conflict management.

Keywords: conservation of natural resources, gender stereotypes, gender in conflict management

Topics: Gender Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2015

Combating Postconflict Violence Against Women: An Analysis of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Governments’ Efforts to Address the Problem


Medie, P.A. 2012. “Combating Postconflict Violence Against Women: An Analysis of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Governments’ Efforts to Address the Problem.” In Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: International Law, Local Responses. Sterling: Kumarian Press.

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Justice, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone

Year: 2012

Gender and Security Sector Reform: Gendering Differently?


Kunz, Rahel. 2014. “Gender and Security Sector Reform: Gendering Differently?” International Peacekeeping 21 (5): 604–22. 

Author: Rahel Kunz


Recent efforts to implement gender mainstreaming in the field of security sector reform have resulted in an international policy discourse on gender and security sector reform (GSSR). Critics have challenged GSSR for its focus on ‘adding women’ and its failure to be transformative. This article contests this assessment, demonstrating that GSSR is not only about ‘adding women’, but also, importantly, about ‘gendering men differently’ and has important albeit problematic transformative implications. Drawing on poststructuralist and postcolonial feminist theory, I propose a critical reading of GSSR policy discourse in order to analyse its built-in logics, tensions and implications. I argue that this discourse establishes a powerful ‘grid of intelligibility’ that draws on gendered and racialized dualisms to normalize certain forms of subjectivity while rendering invisible and marginalizing others, and contributing to reproduce certain forms of normativity and hierarchy. Revealing such processes of discursive in/exclusion and marginalized subjectivities can serve as a starting point to challenge and transform GSSR practice and identify sites of contestation.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Gender Mainstreaming, Security, Security Sector Reform Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2014

Building a more competent security sector: The case of UNMIL and the Liberian National Police


Karim, Sabrina, and Ryan Gorman. 2016. “Building a More Competent Security Sector: The Case of UNMIL and the Liberian National Police.” International Peacekeeping 23 (1): 158–91. doi:10.1080/13533312.2015.1115354.

Authors: Sabrina Karim, Ryan Gorman


Increasingly UN peacekeeping missions are helping to implement security sector reforms (SSR), including gender reforms, targeted at the local police of host countries. This study uses the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Liberian National Police (LNP) as a way to explore whether SSR may have helped improve individual officers' professional and gender competencies. Conducting a novel lab-in-the-field experiment, we test the individual competencies of 612 LNP officers, also analysing possible determinants of these competencies. We find that most officers have knowledge about statutory crimes and evidence gathering, most officers participate in group activities, almost half are aware of gendered crimes and that male and female officers are equally competent. However, our results suggest that the reforms are at the nascent stages of working, and that more focus should be put into basic training and gender mainstreaming in the Liberian National Police, especially as new recruits are added.

Topics: Gender, Gender Roles, Gender Mainstreaming, Peacekeeping, Security, Security Sector Reform Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2016

"Ellen Is Our Man:" Perceptions of Gender in Postconflict Liberian Politics


Garnett, Tanya Ansahta. 2016. “‘Ellen Is Our Man:’ Perceptions of Gender in Postconflict Liberian Politics.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 18 (1): 99–118. doi:10.1080/14616742.2015.1125648.

Author: Tanya Ansahta Garnett


This article examines the nature of shifting gender roles in Liberia's postconflict reconstruction process. Specifically, it investigates the ways in which political authority is gendered and the agency that women in politics employ to justify their participation as they attempt to reduce gender inequalities at the institutional level. I argue that the intervention of the international community has been instrumental in providing space and resources for gender mainstreaming, however in the absence of more in-depth intersectional analyses of gender dynamics, the unintended consequences of peacebuilding policies could hinder the sustainability of long-term peace. This article is based on a qualitative research country study conducted by the author in rural and urban Liberia following the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. A discussion of key findings is exemplified with excerpts from key informant interviews and focus group discussions that seek to give voice to a cross-section of Liberians, so that they can contribute to the ongoing debate on gender mainstreaming in postconflict societies and bridge the gap between local and international discourses.

Keywords: Liberia, gender, postconflict, women;s political representation, peacebuilding

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Women, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Elections, Post-Conflict Governance, Peacebuilding, Political Participation, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2016

Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: International Law, Local Responses


St. Germain, Tonia, and Susan Dewey, eds. 2012. Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: International Law, Local Responses. Sterling, Va: Kumarian Press.

Authors: Tonia St. Germain, Susan Dewey


The result of a collaboration between a feminist legal scholar and an anthropologist, Conflict-Related Sexual Violence presents completely original work by anthropologists, international human rights lawyers, legal theorists, political scientists, mental health professionals, and activists who report upon their respective research regarding responses to conflict-related sexual violence in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and South Africa. Much more than a series of case studies, though, the bulk of the book addresses the implications of international responses to conflict-related sexual violence through analyses of the gaps between policy and practice with respect to efforts made by international organizations, criminal courts and tribunals to reduce or respond to conflict-related sexual violence. Scholarly, reflective, provocative yet practical and action-oriented, this book exemplifies a visionary blending of analysis, evidence, concepts and programs for ameliorating the lot of those whose lives are framed by war and conflict and the striving to find healing and justice.

(Kumarian Press)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, International Law, Justice, NGOs, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa, Americas, Caribbean countries, South America, Asia, South Asia, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Colombia, Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa

Year: 2012


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