ISN Blog, Monday, 15 April 2013
Every academic and professional field has its jargon. While often criticized, jargon has its uses. It serves as a kind of shorthand, allowing us to communicate complex or multiple concepts in short phrases or single words. But it does have its downsides. Excessive use of jargon renders meaning incomprehensible to non-specialists. Even between specialists it may lead to misunderstandings when users and audiences have different conceptions of what the term refers to. Worse, it can be used as a kind of tick-box or name check, allowing users to communicate the sense that they are engaging with the concepts underlying the jargon without necessarily genuinely doing so. We are therefore rightly wary when a new term comes along; asking ourselves whether there is a need for it in our vocabulary.
The field of peacebuilding and conflict transformation is no stranger to jargon. A new term pushing its way into the lexicon is “infrastructures for peace” (“I4P” or “peace infrastructures”). It has been floating around for some time and looks like it may be on the verge of going mainstream. The origins of the term have been credited to conflict transformation guru Jean Paul Lederach. More recently the term has been championed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and an international NGO network has been established to promote the concept. The concept is now the focus of two recent publications: the Berghof Handbook Dialogue Series dedicates its latest issue to the topic as does the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development. On top of these, the inaugural issue of the new open access journal Peacebuilding contains an article and comments on the topic.