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Peasantries and Violent Conflicts

Paysanneries et conflits violents

Campesinados y conflictos violentos

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Published on Tuesday, May 23, 2023


In this call for papers, we wish to address the relationship between the peasantry and conflicts with all the necessary analytical finesse and empiricism, by exploring the plurality of repertoires and modes of action to identify the contextual markers of the trajectories of violent crises involving the peasantry to varying degrees and in various forms. What we mean by violent conflict is any form of confrontation mobilizing a diversified arsenal, with a destructive effect on the agricultural, economic, and social systems in place, and with at times the aim of reconfiguring them to the advantage of certain actors. Such conflicts may be internal to certain peasantries, or may occur at their contact when they are exploited by external actors. Others may take shape and develop outside the rural world before reaching it. These violent conflicts are often found at the crossroads of a range of factors and processes: power dynamics linked to land access, the crystallization of identity and ethno-community differences, and governance problems.



Revue internationale des études du développement n°255 (2024-2)

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, approximately 866 million people worldwide work in agriculture (FAO, 2022). They account for 78% of the world’s rural population and are mainly present in the different Souths (Africa, South-East Asia, and Latin America). Producing more than $3.6 trillion in value each year, they are still often poor, precarious, and vulnerable. Indeed, their lifestyles and activity systems depend heavily on natural resources (water, forests, and land), whose reproduction difficulties contribute to making these populations more fragile and less resilient. They are also the first to be affected by climatic shocks, land insecurity, environmental depredations, and unequal trade rules (Ansoms, 2009).

All of these phenomena contribute to reinforcing conflictual situations between communities and between social groups, which often degenerate into violent conflicts due to the weakening or circumvention of established forms of regulation. In the literature that analyzes such conflicts, the peasantry is often seen as a victim, sometimes as a culprit, but an exploited one, and more rarely as a full-fledged actor with its own agency (Nyenyezi Bisoka et al., 2021).

In this call for papers, we wish to address the relationship between the peasantry and conflicts with all the necessary analytical finesse and empiricism, by exploring the plurality of repertoires and modes of action to identify the contextual markers of the trajectories of violent crises involving the peasantry to varying degrees and in various forms. What we mean by violent conflict is any form of confrontation mobilizing a diversified arsenal, with a destructive effect on the agricultural, economic, and social systems in place, and with at times the aim of reconfiguring them to the advantage of certain actors. Such conflicts may be internal to certain peasantries, or may occur at their contact when they are exploited by external actors. Others may take shape and develop outside the rural world before reaching it. These violent conflicts are often found at the crossroads of a range of factors and processes: power dynamics linked to land access, the crystallization of identity and ethno-community differences, and governance problems.

Peasantries[1] at the heart of conflicts: a central yet ambivalent position :

Over the past few decades, the literature on violent conflict in countries of the South has grown considerably. It accounts for the way in which the place of peasantries in the social sciences is perceived, categorized, and analyzed. Thus, the dominant discourses on these phenomena in Africa and Latin America have evolved over time, ranging from an emphasis on extreme violence (Verweijen, 2015; Múnera Ruiz & de Nanteuil, 2015), to identity politics as the main reason for violence (Lemarchand, 2009), or the role of economic incentives, or yet again that of “the race for resources” (Collier, 2009; Verweijen, 2015). In the Africanist literature, peasantries are often mainly presented in a stereotypical and univocal way: as helpless victims of violent conflicts, who must be helped at all costs (Hecker et al., 2013), or as opportunistic or naïve accomplices, who are often manipulated by local or national political entrepreneurs (Conca & Wallace, 2009). When the impact of violence on peasantries is analyzed, they are often considered as “extras” rather than “actors” in their own right, even if they may make up the demographic majority (Veuillet, 2020).

However, the picture differs significantly when it comes to Latin America and the Caribbean, where since the beginning of the 2000s these same peasantries have been clearly identified as actors, in particular, of rebellions and emancipatory/revolutionary movements, often linked to land reform demands, and more recently in relation to environmental and natural resource policies.

Our postulate is that peasantries do not constitute a heteronomous category or group anywhere. They are determined in multiple ways, through a series of demands, mobilizations, innovations, and specific ways of life (Peemans, 2002; Scott, 1985). A careful analysis of historically, politically, and geographically “situated realities” (Devine, Ojeda & Yie Garzon, 2020) should allow showing that peasantries are ultimately composed of dynamic actors who (co-)shape conflicts and participate as protagonists in different processes which they cause and undergo at the same time. At the very heart of armed conflicts, these peasantries may also organize themselves or be mobilized to devise and construct their own security order (Starn, 1999; Vlassenroot et al., 2022). This has been the case for example with the development of vigilantism (Hagberg et al., 2019, Poudiougou & Zanoletti, 2020, Soré et al., 2021), which is anchored in the peasantry. Vigilantism groups are the peasantry’s response to a political and security order that is often ineffective and unsuitable.

Rural conflicts as the confrontation of social, moral, and political orders :

In response to theoretical approaches to armed groups and mobilizations (Martin, 2000; Lenway et al., 2022; Vlassenroot, 2013), a new school of thought has developed a sociology of armed protests. According to this approach, an armed conflict should be seen as “the coexistence on the same national territory of competing social orders engaged in a violent relationship” (Baczko & Dorronsoro, 2017: 18). Social orders include an “economy of violence,” a specific reference system relating to the capital of actors and institutions that is adapted to the context in which they operate (Baczko & Dorronsoro, 2017). A national territory is seen as a coexistence of different political arenas with different identities, legal and normative systems, and rationalities (Brabant & Nzweve, 2013). In these areas, non-state armed groups, customary institutions, etc., act as “public authorities.” They claim recognition as legitimate political actors negotiating power and authority (Lund, 2006; Hoffmann et al., 2018). Such relationships are referred to as “heterarchical” (Hüsken, 2019), i.e. relationships embedded in a multitude of hierarchies, linked by complex networks with various aggregations of actors and relationships. However, this research has still largely overlooked the position and role of peasantries as political actors and actors in politics, who are directly involved in the violent relationship on the territory in question or indirectly involved through the symbolic or real support that they provide to one protagonist or the other. To account for this when analyzing conflicts, it is necessary to shift the focus to the peasants’ point of view.

It is also necessary to mention a common bias in the literature on peasantries. Indeed, as soon as peasants take up arms, they suddenly seem to cease to be peasants and to become, ipso facto, armed group members, who are often considered to be driven by “identity instincts” (Kaldor, 2012). In the context of African circumstances, the term “identity” is often a simplistic shortcut to refer to anything that is ethnicized, according to a “being wellborn” hierarchy, and to more or less exploited temporalities of occupation or territorialized identities. By contrast, in Latin America, the heterogeneity of peasantries has received much more attention, and other fractures in society and in the peasantry have been analyzed as sources of tension (Edelman, 2013). What do such tensions linked to the heterogeneous nature of peasants and to the existence of distinct and protean groups within the “peasantry” itself tell us about its political nature?

The aim will therefore be to analyze the role of peasantries in conflicts through the prism of the confrontation of social, moral, and political orders beyond simplistic and essentialist interpretations of identity affiliations.

Comparative territorialized matrices of conflicts in Africa and Latin America :

Conflicts within/between/with peasantries have multifaceted causes, manifestations, dynamics, and effects. Thus, in sub-Saharan Africa, there has been an aggravation and spread of often long-standing community conflicts between socio-professional groups, in particular herders and farmers, with an increase in violence (Ouédraogo, 2020). Land and natural resources are often found on the list of major or influential causes of conflicts (Chauveau, 2017). In some Sahelo-Sudanese areas, armed conflicts have also had dramatic consequences on forced population displacements. In the Great Lakes region, economic (agricultural and mining) and geopolitical stakes even seem to be feeding a spiral of conflictual situations and armed conflicts that are difficult to control (Reyntjens, 2009 ; Vogel, 2023).

As far as Latin America is concerned, beyond armed conflicts, the literature has placed great emphasis on peasant movements and the dynamics of plural protests. These protests have been aimed at the neoliberal order and the modernization agenda, particularly in the mining, forestry, and rural sectors. It is often indigenous peoples, with the support of NGOs, who have produced the most radical critiques, at the intersection of privatization, extractivism, and developmentalism (Delgado, 2015). Moreover, these mobilized peasantries have also experienced changes in their organization due to a growing connection to the globalized market (Salama, 2016). Beyond the struggles against land grabbing and agribusiness, these peasant movements have also fought against the territorial destruction of their ways of life (de Nanteuil et al., 2020). These claims reveal divergences both over the management of access to and control of resources and over the content of the moral economy (Scott, 1990).

As far as Africa is concerned, the analysis of the relationships between peasantries and conflicts has evolved over time. In the 1960s and 1970s, articles dealt with peasant revolutions and “jacqueries,” and the concept of “rural radicalism” was created (Weiss, 1967). At the end of this period, the repression of peasant rebellions (Mudinga, 2017) by independent states destroyed the spaces where this radicalism could be expressed (Hoffmann et al., 2018). These repressions prevented the populations’ armed mobilizations (Van Acker, 2018). This situation then gave way to reformism, in the 1990s and even more so in the 2000s (Lecocq & Klute, 2018). This reformism has taken the form of the development of a peasant discourse aimed not at questioning the legitimacy of the state but at accompanying it. The movement from radicalism to reformism took place in the context of an erosion of the Marxist theoretical framework which associated anti-colonial struggle and revolution – both of which are radical by nature (Balibar, 1993). It is then that a large part of the literature in peace and conflict studies began to focus more on the effects of modernizing policies on peasants – and much less on them as political actors. Even if they appear less structured (Ansoms, 2009), there have also been challenges to neoliberal policies, which are favorable to market forces, thus producing land grabbing or concentration in the hands of certain elites (Lavigne Delville, 2016).

As for “the exit out of violent conflicts,” in regions that have experienced protracted armed conflicts in Africa and Latin America, initiatives initially focused on the role of elites rather than on that of peasantries; then, efforts aimed at “locally (re-)building peace” emerged, taking the latter into account more prominently (Keen, 2012). Indeed, several studies have shown that conflicts and ethnic identities are strongly interwoven (Mudinga, 2017). In fact, the most active armed mobilizations have been observed among peasantries that managed to combine an ethnic discourse and the peasant identity (Nyenyezi Bisoka, 2019), while the shared peasant identity did not strengthen peace within these peasantries or prevent the crystallization of ethnicized intra- and inter-peasantry conflicts against a backdrop of community or personal interests.

All disciplines – economics, sociology, anthropology, law, geography, history, political science, and demography – can be called upon to deal with this topic and we invite authors to write article proposals and then contributions that focus on but are not limited to three thematic lines of inquiry:

Line of inquiry 1: epistemology, theory, and ethics in studies linking peasantries and conflicts

Linking peasantries and politics in debates on armed conflicts calls for implementing an epistemological decentering so as to propose theoretical and conceptual choices, considerations that go beyond a state-centered perspective and plead instead for a “situated reality.” This implies justifying the need to focus on the “margins” (peasants) and to move away from elite-centric approaches. As a result, it is the analyses of the relationships between these margins and political processes, at the local scales of daily life, which will be reinforced (Scott, 1998). This may also involve starting from concrete cases to provide precise theoretical elements regarding the peasantry, peasants, etc. (Peemans, 2002), but also proposing a debate on the ethical positioning that influences the conceptual choices in these studies (Shamamba et al., 2014). What is the peasantry as a political actor in the context of conflicts? How can the organic and political autonomy of the peasantry be assessed empirically in the face of a plurality of actors and situations? How are the dimensions of access and moral economy linked in various claims within the conflicts in which peasants are involved?

Line of inquiry 2: conflict modalities, relationships between actors, and impacts on peasantries

Thinking about the relationships between peasants and politics/policies, in contexts linked to armed conflicts, means defining the way in which these relationships are shaped by conflict modalities. They can be terrorism, civil wars, interstate conflicts (Kaldor, 2009), armed groups, vigilante groups, etc. In any case, it is interesting to see how forms of subjugation or agency are created for peasantries. This allows reexamining peasants’ political demands and their relationship to the state (Peemans, 2002). What is the relationship between armed conflicts and peasantries? To what extent do these conflicts affect peasants’ territories and ways of life? How do peasants interact with the actors in the conflict? How do these actions redefine the relationship between peasantries and the state? While many peasantries are now considered less often self-centered, how do the relationships forged with external actors in different conflicts transform peasantries? For example, how does the bureaucratization of peacebuilding blur the boundaries of the peasantry from a pragmatic point of view?

Line of inquiry 3: peacebuilding interventions within/with peasantries

Peace and conflict studies constitute one of the most normative fields of research in the social sciences insofar as they have been developed according to a moral postulate that is favorable to peace (Boutros-Ghali, 1992), and they influence the interventions of international governmental and non-governmental organizations in Africa and Latin America. What place are peasantries really given in these interventions? What are the relationships between the practical methods to “take into account” peasantries and the operations led during these interventions? What are the relationships between local dynamics in peacebuilding operations and peasantries?

Submission details / Participation 

Issue no. 255 (2024/2) of the RIED :

The authors agree to read the editorial policy of the Revue internationale des études du développement and to comply with the code of ethics and the Guidelines for Authors.

The selection process will take place according to the dates specified in the publication calendar below.

  1. Submitting the proposal:

The proposals in French, English, or Spanish must present the paper in 4,000 characters (with spaces), or approximately one page. The file for the proposal must be entitled “AUTHOR’S SURNAME-Proposal-255,” and must include:

- a title (70 characters maximum, with the possibility of adding a subtitle);

- an abstract detailing the research question, the theoretical framework, the fieldwork, and the main results;

- some bibliographical references (not included in the character count);

- a second file entitled “AUTHOR’S SURNAME-255-info,” including the author’s first name and last name, their status, their institutional affiliation, and their email address.

The relevancy of the proposals with regard to this call for papers and their conformity to the journal guidelines will be verified by the journal editors and the editorial team and a preselection of the proposals will be made.

  1. Submitting the paper:

The authors whose proposals have been selected will be invited to send a first draft of their article, which must absolutely follow the guidelines for Authors. The articles will then be submitted to a double blind peer review by two external reviewers who are experts on the topic.

The articles (45,000 characters with spaces, excluding the abstract and references) may be written in French, English, or Spanish. They must be original work. They may however have been presented at a conference (with proceedings), as long as they have been adapted to the format required by the Revue internationale des études du développement, but the author must not submit their paper to another journal simultaneously.

The references cited must be presented in APA format.

Publication calendar

The authors agree to comply with the calendar.

The proposals must be submitted by June 30th, 2023 to:

  • nyenyezibisoka@umons.ac.be
  • t75@mesrs.ml
  • sore@ujkz.bf
  • Mathys@ugent.be
  • revdev@univ-paris1.fr

The authors preselected by the editors and the editorial committee will be notified by the editorial team the week of July 10th, 2023.

The first draft (V1), following the journal’s guidelines for authors, must be submitted by the authors to the aforementioned email addresses by September, 15th 2023.

The evaluation process will take a few months; each – anonymous – article will be submitted to a double blind peer review by two external reviewers who are experts on the topic. Requesting a first version of the article does not constitute a commitment on the part of the journal to publish the aforementioned article, which must be approved by the editorial committee, following the different steps in the evaluation process; no. 255 is expected to be published in June 2024.

Guest Editors

  • Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka, law, political science, and socio-anthropology, professor, Université de Mons, Belgium
  • Mahamadou Bassirou Tangara, economics, associate professor, Université des sciences sociales et de gestion de Bamako, Mali.
  • Zakaria Soré, sociology, associate professor, Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Burkina Faso
  • Gillian Mathys, history, professor, Universiteit Gent, Belgium


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[1] The term “peasantry” was chosen for its generic and encompassing character, as it does not exclude or specifically refer to an agricultural, economic, societal, or political context, a type of activity, or a level of market integration.


  • Friday, June 30, 2023


  • paysannerie, conflit, agriculture, ruralité, sud, afrique, amérique latine

Information source

  • Béatrice Trotier
    courriel : sr [dot] revdev [at] univ-paris1 [dot] fr


CC-BY-4.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International - CC BY 4.0 .

To cite this announcement

Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka, Mahamadou Bassirou Tangara, Zakaria Soré, Gillian Mathys, « Peasantries and Violent Conflicts », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1b7b

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