Towards intimate geographies of peace? Local reconciliation of domestic violence in Cambodia

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This paper addresses the dearth of writing in geography on domestic violence and its misplaced absenteeism in dialogues on geographies of war and peace. It challenges a preoccupation with (inter)-national landscapes of war and militarism through its focus on the (im)possibilities of (liberal) peace within the home. The paper attends to the everyday politics of efforts to reduce spousal violence via local reconciliation – a customary practice of conflict resolution that has attracted criticism from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. On the basis of 120 interviews and a quantitative household survey in two provinces of Cambodia (2012–2014), the paper argues that political economy considerations are crucial to understanding the path and outcome of various domestic violence interventions. By analysing the situated beliefs and experiences of domestic violence victims, legal professionals, NGO workers, police officers and other authority leaders, it also stresses the importance of questioning what peace equates to for different stakeholders. The research shows a strong moralistic commitment to ‘harmony’ and the unyielding continuity of the marital unit by national and local government machinery intent on securing its own intimate security through local reconciliation. For many women who suffer abuse, and for legal professionals in particular, local reconciliation represents, by contrast, an ambiguous departure from intimate war to peace that can lead to the detriment rather than betterment of victims’ lives. Its continued use contravenes the country's 2005 domestic violence law in ‘severe’ cases and belies the promise of justice. Exposing and responding to the cultural ideals and norms promulgated, as well as the political and material realities operative, geographers have a greater role and responsibility to play in producing research that examines the multi-scalar connections between these dynamics and the vested interests of their various interlocutors who have the potential to render peace putative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321–333
Number of pages13
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

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