Understanding peace and restraint amidst ethnic violence: Evidence from Kenya and Kyrgyzstan

Sarah Jenkins

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The recent local turn in peace and conflict research has revealed significant sub-national variations in the onset, intensity, and duration of violence in conflict settings, and uncovered complex patterns of participation and non-participation at the individual level. Situated within this research agenda, this paper seeks to understand the emergence of small pockets of peace and individual acts of restraint during episodes of ethnic violence. Based on qualitative research undertaken in two diverse contexts – Kenya and Kyrgyzstan – the paper argues that strong, crosscutting social ties mediate and contain boundary hardening processes, creating opportunities for peace and restraint on the ground. The paper makes three key arguments: that pre-existing ties of friendship, trust and reciprocity render interpersonal violence more difficult and encourage acts of restraint; that extensive and intensive interethnic interaction disrupts and breaks down us-them distinctions that are the foundations of polarisation; and that crosscutting ties facilitate coordination and cooperation amongst community leaders, and ensure that appeals for peace resonate on the ground.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-192
Number of pages13
JournalPerspectives on Terrorism
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Kenya
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • ethnic violence
  • non-violence
  • peace
  • restraint

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