9 July 2024 • FacultyResearch Narrating Peace: Research on Post-Conflict Societies

Chair of International Relations Stacey Philbrick Yadav and summer research students explore peacebuilding and post-conflict societies.

Professors of International Relations Vikash Yadav and Stacey Philbrick Yadav talk with students during Weekly Donuts hosted by faculty members for students conducting research during the summer.

This summer, Professor of International Relations Stacey Philbrick Yadav and student researchers are investigating the relationship between peacebuilding processes and research and writing on conflict.

Philbrick Yadav is working with IR majors Rafael Aguilar ’25, Kelly Howe ’26 and Sandeep Tissaaratchy ’26 to study power asymmetries between different forms of narration and the ways conflict-near and conflict-distant narrators describe conflict dynamics in their research and advocacy. Engaging with post-conflict scholarship, the students are exploring research and writing on Peru, Sri Lanka, and Yemen, assessing the impact of different ways of characterizing conflict on three very different kinds of wars and post-conflict transformations.

In preparation for the project, students completed a research methods class as well as a Responsible Conduct of Research certificate through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative.

Howe, an international relations major, says this summer’s project has deepened her understanding of effective research processes and her connections with fellow researchers. Tasked with drafting the project’s literature review, Howe has read dozens of articles and books, listened to podcasts, and “steadily [collected] theories, concepts and ideas that connect to narration, agency and conflict.”

Aguilar, an international relations major and environmental studies minor, has enjoyed learning alongside Philbrick Yadav and his peers over the summer. He says the summer research structure has allowed him to learn one-on-one with faculty and through his research on conflict transformation in Peru. “I have learned qualitative research methods through a hands-on approach which will help me in my plans for graduate school and beyond.” Aguilar plans to deepen his knowledge of Indigenous studies and comparative law as he approaches his senior year.

Tissaaratchy, an international relations and economics double major, took “International Human Rights Law” with Philbrick Yadav during his sophomore year, and the class sparked his curiosity to further investigate how countries like Sri Lanka can adopt better post-conflict practices. Tissaaratchy’s research at HWS reflects his passion for understanding the political implications of war in Sri Lanka. Grateful for the summer research experience, Tissaaratchy says, “Being able to work with Professor Philbrick Yadav on something deeply personal has been amazing, and I have grown closer to my peers in the process.”  

While the students have focused this summer on research, in the fall they will turn toward supporting their peers' learning. Howe will serve as a Writing Colleague in Professor Vikash Yadav’s “Politics of Development” course and all three students will work as Teaching Fellows, supporting students in the International Relations Department’s introductory courses through the Center for Teaching and Learning. In addition, Philbrick Yadav is teaching a new class this fall “Post-Conflict Justice and Reconstruction” that will build on their research.