The widespread violence that erupted in Kenya following its 2007/08 presidential election is one example of how ethnic divisions can create deep rifts across countries that can be difficult to overcome.
PhD candidate Valentina Baú is looking at the ways that participatory media can help in bridging some of these rifts, in her doctoral thesis Communication for Development as a Tool for Peace-building and Reconciliation.
“My research looks at the use of communication and participatory media for development and social change,” she says.
“I’m specifically focusing on conflict transformation and peace-building in African countries affected by civil conflict or inter-communal violence.”
Valentina says that her research will show how participation in video and theatre projects can help open up the lines of communication between two conflicting communities.
“Video and theatre are story-telling tools that can be used to share experiences of war,” she notes. “When former enemy groups share stories through the media, this can facilitate healing and reconciliation.”
The Italian, who has previously worked with NGOs on media and theatre projects in Mozambique and Angola, recently returned from a three-month fieldwork trip to Kenya, where she interviewed both victims and perpetrators in the 2007/08 conflict.
“The preparation and the execution of my fieldwork has been a challenge,” Valentina says. “The planning took a long time as I had to liaise with two different NGOs, and the areas I had to visit involved complicated logistical arrangements.”
“It was also hard to be faced with the reality of these people’s experiences, and to learn about the experiences and violence they had to endure at the time of the conflict.”
Bringing together complex areas such as conflict transformation, social change, reconciliation and communication for development in one piece of work, Valentina’s research work has been acknowledged and encouraged by UNICEF.
She says she hopes her research will provide international development practitioners with a new instrument for peace-building.
“I’m aiming to offer recommendations on communication for development and participatory media designs, which can be applied to wider peace-building interventions.“
Read more about research in the Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies.