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Post-conflict reconstruction, contingent neoliberalism, and place in two Nicaraguan localities

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Title: Post-conflict reconstruction, contingent neoliberalism, and place in two Nicaraguan localities
Author(s): Nicley, Erinn
Director of Research: Flint, Colin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Flint, Colin
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Wilson, David; Moodie, Ellen; Chhatre, Ashwini
Department / Program: Geography & Geographic InfoSci
Discipline: Geography
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Post-Conflict Reconstruction Neoliberalism Place Peace Nicaragua Central America
Abstract: This study examines post-conflict reconstruction in the Nicaraguan localities of Jinotega and Boaco since the end of the Contra conflict. Reconstruction has become a formal political project guided by international organizations, Northern donor states, and non-governmental organizations to bind post-war states and societies into a global capitalist-democratic political structure in the past two decades. Critical scholars suggest that reconstruction is a normative international project to promote a blend of liberal and neoliberal reforms as the foundations for a stable post-war peace. From this perspective, reconstruction imposes liberal/neoliberal political-economic norms that do not adequately take into account the needs, interests, and cultural mores of post-conflict populations. For some scholars, reconstruction is part of an effort to maintain Northern hegemony through the introduction of liberal and particularly neoliberal modes of regulation. Recent research in geography and other disciplines has adopted a relational perspective to see reconstruction as a political process to negotiate the terms of post-conflict peace and its discontents. These works complement notions of reconstruction from above with a post-structural perspective that examines the contested production of post-conflict order within particular places and scales. Reconstruction reflects the unequal structural position that permits international actors considerable influence over the reconstruction process. Yet, reconstruction also takes hybrid, contingent forms through the different articulations of political institutions and relations that come together in time and space. The current study blends theories on contingent neoliberalism, political economy, and geographic place to examine the mutual relationship between reconstruction and place-specific political, economic, social, and cultural relations through which reconstruction is defined and put into practice. The study examines three related questions: 1) How reconstruction norms translate into place-specific patterns of transnational governance; 2) How place-based political actors renegotiate international norms to produce contingent neoliberal modes of political economy in place; 3) Whether dominant reconstruction patterns undermine the putative reconstruction goal of building a positive and just peace in war-torn states and societies? I conducted ethnographic field research in two Nicaraguan localities, Jinotega and Boaco, during visits in July-August 2008 and July-September 2009. I further supplemented these field visits with long-distance correspondence with Nicaraguan informants. The results of this study confirm that international organizations, donor states, and transnational non-governmental organizations maintain a powerful influence over the neoliberal content of reconstruction through their financial and material control. However, the study also demonstrates that reconstruction has taken complicated, place-specific paths in both field sites. Reconstruction outcomes reflect the place-specific articulation of international norms and the grounded institutions, governance patterns, and political practices that define and constitute the political economy of post-conflict peace in time and space. The results of this study call into question the efficacy of both top-down and bottom-up perspectives that fail to recognize that reconstruction forms within particular places through the hybrid connections between actors from across political scales and sites. Finally, the results support the contention that the normative reconstruction of neoliberal peace may be fostering post-conflict political-economic conditions that reinforce a state of dependency on international donors in ways that undermine the putative reconstruction goals of advancing a positive sense of liberal or neoliberal peace in war-torn states and societies.
Issue Date: 2012-05-22
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/30924
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Erinn Nicley
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-05-22
Date Deposited: 2012-05
 

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