Study of indigenous peoples by academics from diverse disciplines has informed theory on why violent conflict occurs, and the role of narratives in creating the conditions for peace and conflict resolution. However, indigenous peoples are rarely given the opportunity to undertake narrative analysis themselves and for their analysis to inform academic literature.
Field research in this paper from Solomon Islands examines data from a writing workshop where participants created and collectively analysed narratives. This narrative analysis was compared alongside the academic literature and recent findings from the Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission to study causes and manifestations of conflict.
The findings suggest that political and partisan biases in research have overemphasised ethnic differences in conflict in the Solomon Islands. In contrast, insider-views underline social links between people and a desire for unity. However, narratives of ethnic polarization have masked the divide between the elite, who use state resources to build wealth and personal security, and the rest of society. Ironically, the peace agreements and statebuilding interventions have supported rather than created space for challenging the power of the political elite. This is manifesting as mass violence, conflict around gender roles and insecurity of some identity groups. Though linked socially and culturally, people are still divided by structural violence.
The analysis links back to the conception of ‘positive peace’ a concept that is commonly referenced by local people, and posited in contrast with the ‘negative peace’ imposed by military intervention. Outsider-led research was found to have had an ‘Other-ing’ role on identities within the diverse nation, and supported (rather than challenged) polarising narratives. This then raises questions and implications for researchers and practitioners working with communities ‘divided yet one’.