Expertise

I received my MA Political Science degree at Leiden University, the Netherlands, in 1997. Thereafter I worked for the Interdisciplinary Research Programme on Root Causes of Human Rights Violations (PIOOM), Leiden University, between 1998 and 2002. I wrote confidential reports, like one on the Kosovo conflict for the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB) in Vienna, Austria. Since then, I have been a freelance consultant and independent scholar. Currently I am finalising a comparative study on Chechen and Albanian insurgents and the applicability of my own Brutalisation theory on their aims and methods of violence. The findings of this study are presently being published as a “How to Feud and Rebel” series in the peer-reviewed journal Iran and the Caucasus (Brill), for which I hope to be awarded a PhD at the Institute of History at Leiden University (see page ‘Publications’ in particular).

Presently I am conducting research on the applicability of the Brutalisation theory on other intractable conflicts, like the one in and on Nagorno Karabakh. See for a Diagram of the latest version of my Brutalisation theory: BrutalisationDiagram2014. Together with Dr. Babak Rezvani and Servet Sahin (MA political science), I have established the Forum of EthnoGeoPolitics (first issue: Vol.1 No.1, Spring 2013), an academic journal for analysis and debate within the field of ethnogeopolitics (see page ‘Other projects’).

 

Profile

My specialty lies in the analysis of armed conflict, including testing my own Brutalisation theory, and applying my typology of political violence with lucid definitions of terrorism, banditry and rebellion. My expertise makes me suitable as a researcher, lecturer, policymaker, mediator or lobbyist on issues like terrorism, democratisation, human rights, migration and asylum policies. My qualities and abilities – thoroughness, integrity, persistence, commitment and self-reliance – are best realised in a small organisation, or in a small, autonomous team within a large organisation.

 

Responses to interview questions by Jaroen Schut (info@kenniscentraal.nl), 4-10-2014

  1. What makes your qualities, your characteristics and abilities, unique in comparison to other current conflict analysts and security specialists?

I wouldn’t say my qualities are unique – who knows, there may be one or more “alter ego’s” walking on the globe right now! I do believe, however, that my qualities of thoroughness, independence and open-mindedness are quite rare in the current world of overly hazy, hasty and fashionable conflict and security analyses in the media, without offering clear definitions, perspectives and possible solutions to decision-makers and the wider public alike.

Above all my willingness to think outside the box and offer, for instance, offer definitions of terrorism, banditry and other forms of violence that should be self-evident but are often ‘counter-intuitive’ to many people. Also, I can and do suggest ways to combat or otherwise deal with those kinds of violence, that should at the very least a fresh look at things, give people hope that these seemingly intractable and unsolvable problems – all too often intimately tied to brutality and brutalization – can be properly understood and dealt with. Thus I deal with these issues in my forthcoming book ‘Conceptualising Violence’, some elements of which I already present and have presented in my presentations, articles and reports. To give you just one inkling on the way how I think and tackle things, let me quote a central argument in my book:

“it is best to a) base primary concepts on observable actions by humans and other (sentient) organisms that may occur at any point in time; b) base secondary concepts on observable actors i.e. individuals and groups of humans; and c) base tertiary concepts on more elusive and fluctuating human drives, motives and beliefs of actors across certain points in time – even if the latter two categories involve deeper analysis of the reasons why ‘action-phenomena’ occur.” (Introduction)

 

  1. Which role specifically does ethnicity play within your research field?

Ethnicity is just one of the many concepts and phenomena that characterize or can characterize a people, both in times of peace and war. This is true not just in my own research, but also within conflict studies in general – indeed, the term ‘ethnicity’ appears in one form or another in practically all disciplines within the social (an even natural) sciences. As with so many other terms and concepts, ‘ethnicity’ does not or hardly mean anything if it is not explicitly and sensibly defined, and put in a wider context of other human actions, actors and drives. If not done so, the term becomes hazy, overly abstract and indistinguishable from other terms, like ‘nationalism’, ‘patriotism’ and ‘tribalism’. In much of my research and analysis, I provide the reader or listener with the following definitions of such terms, whereby ‘ethnicism’ – not ethnicity per se – is or can be a particular variant or subset of nationalism, but can also stand apart from the latter:

“Patriotism: the belief that it is one’s duty, irrespective of one’s motive – love, sense of obligation, sense of self-respect i.e. honour, or even self-interest and opportunism – to defend or otherwise maintain and secure the peace and prosperity of one’s home – ranging from one’s personal and family homestead to one’s village or regional community, all the way up to the homeland i.e. the (nation-)state one happens to live in, not necessarily one’s place of birth.”

“Nationalism: the belief that a nation i.e. a (supposedly) homogeneous people with common characteristics – shared history, territory, culture, religion, language, ethnicity (actual or perceived common ancestry; tribal if dispersed, clannish if geographically concentrated), race, etcetera – should have its own state i.e. system of rule. When a national people attain a state, i.e. governing authority, its rights are paramount over any other people residing within its territory.”

“Statism: the belief that the territory of a region, republic or any other unity should have its own state. Such a state does not necessarily have to be based on a homogeneous people of one race, ethnicity, or other common characteristic. Its citizens may belong to heterogeneous communities, yet they in principle hold the same rights of citizenship (‘Expansionism’ parallel to irredentism).”

Generally, the term ‘ethnicity’ plays so many, multifarious roles within the field of conflict studies and beyond – almost as many roles as there are individual researchers in this field – that it is undoable to summarize these roles here. Suffice to say here is, that this multiplicity is mainly due to a plurality of different definitions of, approaches to and views on ethnicity as a phenomenon in the real world.

 

  1. Which tools does your own brutalisation theory provide to make a good analysis and offer solutions?

First of all, I need to clarify something here: my theory on brutalisation i.e. increasing violation of local and/or international norms of violence, is a very negative, pessimistic theory on the human condition, effectively stating that any armed conflict or other type of violence tends to go from bad to worse, with little relief in sight. However, this does not mean that I fully believe in the theory or all its facets, certainly not in each and every case. In each case, I seek to falsify, that is to say to disprove or at least test the theory or the validity of one or more of its variables.

Generally, the theory is useful if only because it combining theoretical elements from many disciplines, ranging from cultural anthropology to military psychology. I believe that a broad, multi-disciplinary approach has the best chance to significantly enhance one’s comprehension of armed conflicts and their morally corrosive effects. Even if the brutalisation theory turns out not to be wholly or even partially valid in many cases, it will have served its purpose of enhancing knowledge about violence. Its partial invalidity may even expose actual and potential ‘de-brutalising’ factors that one then may strengthen through new forms of conflict resolution and management, in order to prevent, limit or curtail violence in the future – in particular brutal violence that grossly violates generally recognized norms, like human rights and the laws of warfare.

 

  1. Are you able to conduct field research?

Of course I am able to conduct such research, even though I have not been as often in the field as I would have liked given financial and time constraints. I am not a trained anthropologist in the strict sense or a field researcher in the broader sense, but I am familiar with the literature and those methods and findings most relevant to my own research. I have conducted some relatively short field trips, and conducted interviews, in the recent and more distant past (at least since the 1990s, as a master student in Political Science).

Naturally, I want to do field research much more often – but that partially depends on how often and how much funding I receive to do this kind of research. I must emphasize here, however, that most of my research has not required extensive field research as such, and that I have not tried or needed to secure funding for such research all that often. Naturally, that may change – depending on the research project and its requirements.

 

5.  Can you work out a case that will be freely available on your website, like on the Ukraine or Syria?

Sure. Some particular cases are mentioned or discussed in some of my freely available publications and reports on this website already. Still, a full-fledging case study on a recent or ongoing conflict like the one in the Ukraine or Syria would be a good idea. I have been doing observations on these cases in recent, current and forthcoming publications already, but usually these are in the context of multi-case, comparative analyses – or are made in the context of my political activism, like for the International Committee for Humanitarian Intervention (www.ichuminterv.org). Even so, I will make analyses on recent or current hotspots in the world freely available on the site in the near, foreseeable future.