A critical look at identity, migration and popular mobilization: understanding violence and securitization in times of crisis

The current edition of Cabo dos Trabalhos comprises articles written by Ph.D. candidates of the International Politics and Conflict Resolution Programme, a joint programme of the Centre for Social Studies and the Faculty of Economics of the University of Coimbra. Covering a diverse array of cases and locations, this collection of articles comes together around interrelated topics of outmost importance to our current times. They verse about identity, migration, popular mobilization, violence and securitization, among other things. In all, this collection shows the diversity of research carried out, along with a critical trend in theoretical approaches, which have characterized this Ph.D. programme along the years. The work developed within this Ph.D. framework has been contributing to the training of young scholars on peace and violence-related studies, furthering this area of studies in Coimbra and Portugal. This special issue dedicated to ‘A critical look at identity, migration and popular mobilization: understanding violence and securitization in times of crisis’ gathers nine essays, seeking to highlight some of the most pressing issues in these topics.

Fernanda Pulcineli in her article entitled “Normalizing the Unpredictable: Social Movement Society, Constructivism, and Social Psychology” challenges us to think about the way in which social movements have been altering social and political norms in the new century. To build her analysis, she resorts to Constructivism and Social Psychology studies as both disciplines offer the right tools to understand people’s emotions, grievances, and identities – important dimensions underlying the social movements’ most recent changes.

Also bringing together Constructivism and Social Psychology, Ricardo Palmela de Oliveira argues in his paper that the latter has much to offer to the International Relations research agenda. According to him, Social Psychology offers a broader understanding of how opposing identities lead to intergroup conflict, serving as a possible complement to Constructivism. He illustrates his argument by focusing on the portrayal of Palestinians by Israelis in Michael Mayer’s movie “Out in the Dark, Breaking Glass Pictures”.   

The case of Yemen is the object of study of Heloíse Guarise Vieira. After carefully describing the use of the Responsibility to Protect tool in a regional scale during the post-Cold war period, she enumerates different reasons why this mechanism could work as a possible solution for the case of Yemen. According to her, the toolkit of Responsibility to Protect could contribute, for instance, for the desecuritization of the region by giving other meaning to the Saudi-Arabian-led military intervention in the country.

Linking Constructivism and securitization, the work of Inês Sousa, “The Other, the mother of all borders: The U.S-Mexico frontier”, reflects on how and why population movements have become to be considered a security issue. By analysing the speeches and policies of former United States presidents, she concludes that the idea of threat and intolerance were key to the development of the traditional definition of security towards the concept of population movement.

Still in the field of securitization, João Victor Pinto Dutra examines the relationship between the high rates of homicides in Brazil and the country’s security policies. To that matter, he builds upon the School of Paris in order to understand how and why more securitization ends up being translated into more insecurity for Brazilian young men. 

From Latin America to Africa, in his paper, Mário Gonçalves examines the French military intervention in Ivory Coast. After presenting a detailed review of France’s historical presence in the African continent, Gonçalves argues that France’s military intervention in Ivory Coast in 2011 corresponded to the interests of both the French government and Ivory Coast’s political elites.

In his work entitled ““The Clash of Civilizations?”: reality or approach 25 years later. Review of Samuel Huntington’s idea of identity, ethnicity and religion from several theoretical stances”, Miguel Sotto-Mayor Negrão analysis Huntington’s work through the lenses of Constructivism, Liberalism, Structural-realism, Post-colonialism and Neoliberalism. The author concludes that despite Huntington’s valid points on issues such as identity, ethnicity and religion, we are not doomed to conflict as these new schools of thoughts have offered alternative perspectives and new convincing solutions to Huntington’s issues.

Refugees and refugee crisis are at the centre of Pedro Constantino’s work. According to the author, the concept of refugee crisis, used in different outlets and forms, has been co-opted by political elites in order to maintain the status quo as well as sustain different relations of power. To build his analysis, the author resorts to Post-Structuralism, calling attention to the dangers of discursive categories attributed to refugees which have helped to create false identities.

Finally, theoretically rich and empirically enticing, these pieces should be read by anyone interested in the pressing issues of migration, identity, international intervention, among others. 

Maria Raquel Freire

Natália Bueno