Violent conflict and its aftermath are pressing problems, particularly for international development initiatives. However, the results of development in conflict contexts have generally been disappointing and their preventative potential thus questionable. Lives Amid Violence: Transforming Development in the Wake of Conflict (Bloomsbury, 2023) by Dr. Mareike Schomerus argues that this is because practitioners adhere to a mental model that emphasises linearity, certainty, and causality, assuming that violence is best addressed through work plans that deliver state-building, stabilisation and services. Based on ten years of multi-method research from, in, and on conflict-affected countries, this book challenges this approach.

Drawing on a significant collaborative body of scholarship, Dr. Schomerus puts forward original and generalizable conclusions about how lives amid violence persist, offering an invitation to abandon restricting mental models and to embrace creative ways of thinking and working. These include paying attention to the long-term effects of conflict on individual behaviour and decision-making, the social realities of economic life, the role service delivery plays in negotiations between citizens and states, and to creating meaningful relationships. Transformation also requires reflection and therefore the book concludes with constructive suggestions on how to practice these insights to better support those whose lives are shaped by violence.

This book is available open access here. 

This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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