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Annika Björkdahl

Annika Björkdahl


Annika Björkdahl

Urban Peacebuilding in ethno-nationally divided and contested cities: the case of Mostar


  • Annika Björkdahl

Summary, in English

Cities divided by violent conflict, such as Mostar, Beirut and Nicosia, have proved remarkably resistant to peacebuilding efforts aimed at reconstruction, reintegration and reconciliation. Such cities tend to freeze the conflict, as it remains divided regardless of a conflict settlement. Contested cities therefore become symbols of the continuities rather than discontinuities between war and peace. Yet, the mutuality between urban peacebuilding and social reconciliation makes cities necessary foundations on which to build an integrated society and a sustainable grass-root peace. The divided city as a lived space provides for interaction between inhabitants, and can either reinforce or undermine divisions in every day practices. For example it is in the streets where negotiations over concepts such as tolerance and democracy take place, and where challenges connected to governing divided communities emerge. In the urban public spaces, local actors can deliberate, localize and realize internationally sponsored, elite negotiated and nationally agreed peace accords.

By marrying critical urban studies with critical peacebuilding literature this paper explores the problematique of building sustainable peace in divided cities. Peacebuilding requires “urbanization” and a proper understanding of ‘the urban’ as a space stimulating both peace- and conflict-generating activities, promoting intergroup competition over space and resources, as well as interdependencies inherent to urban life. The ambition is to attempt to unpack the multidimensionality of ‘peacebuilding’ as an object of knowledge, and conceptually develop the notion of urban peacebuilding. Hence, the urban, urban peace and urban peacebuilding provide the conceptual building blocks of this paper as it explores the divided city as a frontier, an autonomous actor, and an arena for peace- or conflict-generating activities. The paper will investigate the divided city as a nexus of top-down and bottom-up peacebuilding processes and as analytically pertinent ‘zones of engagement’ and ‘ of friction’ between the global and the local in order to map out urban peacebuilding strategies.


  • Department of Political Science

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper


  • Political Science


  • Divided City
  • Mostar
  • Peace
  • Urban
  • Peacebuilding

Conference name


Conference date

2011-09-01 - 2011-09-02

Conference place

Nicosia, Cyprus



Research group

  • Freds- och konfliktforskning