The structure and function of keywords in the development of civil wars: opportunities for peace building?
With intrastate wars the prevailing form of armed conflict, attention is focusing on analytical approaches able to provide insights into the drivers of conflict and the prospects for peace-building at the level of discrete populations. While “narratives of grievance” play a strong role in the development of conflicts, unexamined in the literature is why there is pervasively a high degree of ambiguity, confusion, and multiple meanings with regard to the terms, concepts, and understandings that describe the central dilemmas around which narratives of grievance consolidate. This article examines this question for 3 cases of civil war (Darfur, Colombia, Yemen) in which land rights is the key dilemma. Using the “keywords” approach, the argument is made that keywords are prevalent in civil conflicts, can be observed well before a conflict begins, and can provide the basis for the development of tools for peace-building.