A different kind of weapon? Rethinking force, nonviolence, and the protection of civilians in violent conflict

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific


This mid-term view seminar examines how nonviolent action can be used to protect civilians in situations of violent conflict, and what implications this has for civilian protection regimes. Though we know that nonviolent tactics can be an effective form of civil resistance, and that communities around the world use nonviolence as a means of protecting themselves, there has been limited research considering how this interacts with conventional protection regimes such as armed peacekeeping that are predicated on the use of force. This issue has been overlooked despite renewed interest in unarmed forms of protection within the United Nations and other civilian protection fora.

This seminar examines how nonviolent actions by unarmed civilians are used in attempts to protect other civilians; how these strategies are perceived by other protection actors; and the implications this has for protection of civilians regimes more broadly. The seminar presents Felicity's study, which is multi-sited, drawing on two years of ethnographic and interview-based research with protection practitioners and communities, featuring an in-depth case analysis of how these issues have shaped civilian protection responses in the conflict in South Sudan.

Felicity Gray is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at The Australian National University (ANU). Felicity's work examines unarmed, nonviolent strategies for the protection of civilians in armed conflict with a particular focus on how this interacts with and challenges the use of force for civilian protection. She received an Endeavour Scholarship to undertake this research, with her work spanning Lebanon, Berlin, New York City, and Myanmar and recently completed extended field work in South Sudan.