This is the final chapter in Part II of this book and it presents the final pillar of the ethnographic approach. However, this fourth pillar is somewhat different to the first three and the pages that follow are certainly of a different tone than those that precede them. While Pillars I-III can be seen as progressive steps whereby the evaluator begins with a commitment to see peacebuilding as experiential, completes ethnographic preparation, and then employs local engagement in the field, the fourth pillar is not simply a fourth step in this process. Similarly, while each of the last three chapters described one of these first three pillars and then illustrated its value with quotes and examples drawn from my two evaluations in Sierra Leone, this chapter draws more from theoretical work and requires a little more patience on the part of the reader. But, I would like to stress here at the beginning that this pillar is – though described last – the foundation of the ethnographic approach. The willingness of the evaluator to question and critique their own implicit assumptions underpins the entire approach. As described in Chapter 1, the field of peacebuilding, including both its

academic and practical components, is undergoing consolidation and professionalization. In this process young future peacebuilders are being ever more trained and directed to consider the social goods provided by peacebuilding projects as predefined and specific; to see justice, reconciliation, democracy, security, empowerment, development, and even peace itself as products of a defined set of technocratic solutions. Professional training in graduate programs throughout the “developed” world provides definitions of retributive, restorative, or reparative justice and how to provide them, for example, while research centers, think tanks, and consulting firms publish guidebooks and best-practices for intergroup dialogue and reconciliation processes (Bloomfield, Barnes, and Huyse 2003). At the same time international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provide statistical analysis explaining the failures and successes of past development programs and how development can be fostered in the “least developed countries.” This technocratic approach to the field of peacebuilding takes as its core responsibility the definition of problems, the

design of solutions, and the administration of projects “for them” located “over there.” Similarly, these same professional training programs are continuously

pumping out graduates skilled in evaluating how many women have participated in “livelihood” programs, how many convictions have been handed down by a criminal tribunal, how many guns have been destroyed through disarmament, how much money has been spent on a development project, or how many people have participated in “good governance” training programs; all of which are outputs; numbers easily observed. This approach can adequately evaluate certain things. For example, it is quite simple to evaluate whether truth commissions have or have not published their findings, or to count how many people attended their public hearings or how many statements were collected among witnesses, survivors, victims, and perpetrators. However, it is much more difficult to evaluate the substantive outcomes of such projects; to determine if disarmament is experienced as fostering security, if convictions are experienced as providing justice, or if and how good governance training actually affects local experiences of governance, the quality of that governance, or whether it is considered legitimate and authoritative by local non-elites. More worrying still, however, is that the new graduates of such programs

and seasoned professional peacebuilders in the field rather uncritically consider these easily collected numbers to be proxies for more substantive experiences – whether of justice, healing, development, or transparency – apparently unaware that such measures cannot tell us much about actual experiences within the world of those living in most contemporary postconflict settings. Proxies, by their very nature, are chosen a priori by the evaluators – not the beneficiaries – and are, even at their very best, very rough indicators of complex social experiences. It will hopefully be clear, at this point in the book, that an evaluator’s own definition of such experiences cannot be the starting point for evaluating whether or not peacebuilding projects provide local people with the social goods they are often theorized to provide. If peacebuilding as a discipline and a practice hopes ever to contribute towards an emancipatory peace, the first step must be to stop defining what justice, reconciliation, or development will be for those who have survived war. Only local conceptions of those social goods can be the starting point for accurate evaluation, or for that matter, for peacebuilding. While Chapter 3 illustrated that peacebuilding processes attempting to cat-

alyze experiences of culturally variable social goods often fail to do so and, therefore, that evaluation must see peacebuilding as an experiential as opposed to an institutional project, and Chapter 4 demonstrated that ethnographic preparation is necessary because we can only evaluate local experiences of such social goods if we understand what these concepts mean in local settings, the cases of the TRC and the FDI project in rural Sierra Leone also highlight a much deeper lesson. They show not only that concepts of justice, reconciliation, empowerment or development are variable between settings,

but that much more fundamental conceptions of self and sociality which buttress local conceptions of these social goods are themselves variable over space and time. This chapter argues, therefore, that ideas of justice, reconciliation, or empowerment are secondary concepts, built on foundations of more fundamental schemas or “mental maps” of the world in which we live, and – importantly – that these foundational conceptions vary between the social and cultural homelands of those who plan, fund, design, and administer such projects, and those of the supposed beneficiaries. I therefore argue that the evaluator must do more than question their own

ideas of the social goods supposedly provided by peacebuilding projects, such as those of justice, reconciliation, opportunity, or empowerment; they must question the foundational concepts that underpin these secondary concepts or, as Jayawickrama has recently argued, you must “seek an awareness of your own culturally based assumptions” (2013: 34). As has been indicated in the previous chapters, the local experiences of the TRC and the FDI project were closely related to culturally specific ideas about the relationships and responsibilities between people which give definition to the dynamics of the patron-client system. I will argue here that secondary concepts are shaped by the very concepts of self that govern such relationships, responsibilities, and social action in Sierra Leone, which are, in turn, wholly different from those in the West. This chapter, therefore, ties the previous three together by exploring

more closely the deeply engrained unconscious conceptions underpinning the common misunderstandings of international actors working in Sierra Leone and explains how such deeply engrained but nonetheless culturally variable concepts can undermine accurate evaluation. In addition, I will show that what must start as a willingness to recognize the boundedness of one’s own perspective and an appraisal of one’s own implicit assumptions must then evolve to allow more accurate assessment of the data collected. This data, in turn, further reinforces the imperative to question basic assumptions. I will return, at the end of this chapter, to provide a very short conclusion to this part of the book before moving on to Part III.