Victoria Kumala Sakti
Freie Universität Berlin
The Cultural Dimension of Peace is a compelling read, grounded in the author's extensive multi-sited and multi-temporal ethnographic research in the Indonesian province of Maluku. The cultural turn in peace studies refers to the increasing importance peace scholars and interventions put on 'culture', 'the local' and 'local ownership'. Bräuchler argues that this trend lacks crucial input from the very discipline which expertise is on the study of culture, i.e. social and cultural anthropology. The key to understanding local conceptions of conflict and peace, justice and reconciliation, is to deconstruct them and explore their complexities. The first chapter outlines a critical review of concepts that currently prevail international discourses on peacebuilding. It provides an excellent resource for scholars, practitioners and students alike seeking to understand why normative notions of transitional justice, (liberal) peace, and reconciliation often do not fit easily in local and ethnographic realities. After contextualising the larger sociopolitical dynamics of decentralisation, democratisation, and reconciliation in Indonesia in its second chapter, the book provides rich ethnographic case studies on how local actors in the Moluccan setting revived traditional means to re-establish social relations after intrastate violence. These chapters (three to six) work effectively to support her argument that anthropological approaches could offer partial solutions for various dilemmas faced by peace studies. Nevertheless the author warns of the danger of romanticizing the local, traditional justice, or even the work of anthropologists itself by delineating their respective challenges and pitfalls. Bräuchler is particularly good at presenting her findings in a way that speaks across an interdisciplinary audience. This book is a timely contribution for the emerging subfield of anthropology of peace.