Pawelz, Janina

Dr. Janina Pawelz is a researcher at the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies in Hamburg, Germany, and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH). Her research focuses on peace and security, youth, identity, urban violence, violent groups and radicalization. She conducted research in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean and currently works on radicalization and violence in Germany. Within the CRISEA project her focus is on youth and identity in Timor-Leste. Her empirical research and methodological approaches have been published in Forum Qualitative Social Research, Peacebuilding, Asian Journal of Peacebuilding and various handbooks.

Summary of project

Timor-Leste, a small island state in Southeast Asia with a little more than one million inhabitants is home to a huge array of collectives, including violence-prone groups known as martial arts groups. Violent clashes between rival martial arts groups became frequent in the independence era, including numerous injuries and deaths. Martial arts groups in Timor-Leste have a nation-wide reach and thousands of members. On one hand, martial arts groups have gained prominence as instigators of violence and actors of insecurity and challenge peace and security in the country. On the other hand, these organizations provide a strong structure of identity, protection and social security for thousands of Timorese youth. The combination of strong support networks, loyalty, and hierarchical organisation can be a compromising mix of conflict dynamics. Loyalty, identity, and hierarchy can be misused for political purposes in terms of influencing voting behaviour. This raises the question how martial arts identities affect peace, democracy, and nation building. This project will analyze youth identities in Timor-Leste through the lens of social identity theory. Data will be based on fieldwork in Timor-Leste. I will conduct semi-structured expert interviews; interview partners will be youth workers, NGOs, international organizations and policy makers.

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