The staff of IUP/Journals recently conducted an interview with Abu Bakarr Bah about his vision of African Conflict & Peacebuilding Review (ACPR), our newest title.
IUP/J: What makes the time right for ACPR?
BAH: I see three key things that make it the right time for ACPR.
First, there are ongoing conflicts and political tensions in Africa that need serious scholarly and policy attention. At the same time, there are intriguing efforts to build peace, and Africans are taking ownership of their problems and political destiny. In addition, the struggles for democracy have transformed the relationship between the people and the power holders, and young people are becoming more involved in addressing the fundamental political, economic, and social issues that often lead to conflict. ACPR will be a major outlet for work that focuses on the conflict and peacebuilding efforts in Africa.
Second, studies and policy debates on conflict and peacebuilding in Africa have not received the attention they deserve in major academic publishing outlets, and it is still the case that most works on Africa in the major journals are by people who do not live and work there. ACPR will make high quality works by scholars and practitioners based in Africa accessible to a wider audience, especially in the United States. I think that it will be refreshing to read about Africa through the lens of people who work and live there.
Third, there is a growing recognition that multiple voices and mediums of expression are needed in the effort to promote conditions for peace in Africa. Scholars, policy makers, and activists have a common goal of understanding the causes and the nature of conflict in Africa and finding ways to promote peace. ACPR will encourage the interaction of ideas and perspectives across disciplines, professions, geographic locations, generations, and worldviews and will transcend professional and generational boundaries.
IUP/J: Why is there a need for creative and rigorous study of conflict resolution in Africa?
BAH: The more we study conflict resolutions, the better are the chances of improving the human condition in Africa. We need to move beyond simple descriptions and ideological biases and engage in critical study of the causes of conflicts, the institutional arrangements that are most likely to maintain peace, and the elements of our cultures that promote or hinder peace. My view is that the ultimate purpose of knowledge is not knowledge for the sake of knowing but knowledge for the sake of improving the human condition. This does not mean some kind of utopian vision of peace and justice, but, rather, it is about translating knowledge into practical tools that can make some difference in society.
IUP/J: What is a holistic view of peace and conflict?
BAH: In my mind, a holistic view of peace and conflict is one that links the nature and effects of conflict with the conditions that lead to conflict. Similarly, it is the perspective that links peace to the conditions that undermine or promote peace. A holistic view of peace and conflict will be informed by multiple disciplines, professional backgrounds, and lived experiences.
IUP/J: In your view, what is the link between research and activism?
BAH: We live in a world in which ideas and action are locked together. Research should uphold the principles of objectivity and non-ideological commitments in the pursuit of knowledge and solutions to human problems. However, research by itself will not change the human condition. Knowledge has to be acted upon. Activism should be clearly separated from research. Research should not be reduced to activism. Researchers should be open about their policy preferences, biases and worldview. As a journal that bridges research and policy, ACPR will be sensitive to this issue. The journal will ensure that policy preferences are presented as such and not as definitive scientific knowledge. The issue question is, “How do we take the ideas from research and put them into practice?”
IUP/J: Why is it important to include analysis of creative approaches such as film and media in your discussion?
BAH: We live in a digital age, and the regular inclusion of such materials in ACPR is a way to engage people of diverse backgrounds and generations. The more people and perspectives we invite into the debate, the better the debate. Creative approaches can be very useful tools for teaching, and ACPR will provide instructors with quality materials to which students can easily relate.
IUP/J: Talk about your goal to stimulate quality public discourse about African conflict and resolution.
BAH: Our goal is make quality scholarship and policy reflections widely available. It is important to include the works of people who live and work in Africa is this discourse. ACPR will meet high quality academic standards and encourage a discourse that includes wide-ranging perspectives and backgrounds. One of our major objectives is to provide a high quality forum where scholarship and policy debates interact.
IUP/J: Why is it important that ACPR be available to African individuals and institutions?
BAH: ACPR is, first and foremost, about the African condition. Africans, especially those in Africa, have a stake in the mission of the journal. They should also have a voice in it. One thing that excites me the most is the possibility of promoting discourse among scholars and policy makers in Africa.
IUP/J: How will you guarantee that African voices will be included in the journal?
BAH: ACPR will make sure that scholars and practitioners across Africa are aware of the opportunities in ACPR. The editors of ACPR have extensive networks across Africa. Most importantly, the West African Research Association and the Africa Peace and Conflict Network, which are the sponsors of ACPR, have been working with African scholars and practitioners for a long time. ACPR will tap into their resources.
Abu Bakarr Bah is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Northern Illinois University. His research focuses on issues of democracy, nation building, ethnicity, and the peace-making and peace-building role of the international community. He has a PhD from the New School for Social Research.