Realizing Nonviolent Resilience

Neoliberalism, Societal Trauma, and Marginalized Voice

by Jeremy A. Rinker (Volume editor) Jerry T. Lawler (Volume editor)
©2020 Monographs X, 286 Pages
Series: Conflict and Peace, Volume 2


Current neoliberal social and economic realities have had enormous impacts on the abilities of oppressed groups and marginalized communities to realize resistance and innate resiliencies. How does the ubiquity of neoliberal economic forces exacerbate traumatized populations’ helplessness, and, thereby, influence their inability to grapple with their oppressors and engage in fruitful change solutions? This edited volume asks how nonviolent conflict practitioners might intervene to ‘treat’ traumatized, and often marginalized, populations suspended in the predicament of ‘acting in’ and ‘acting out’ their collective traumas. Treating trauma is an integral aspect of successful peacebuilding work. This work aims to explore the role of trauma in peacebuilding and illuminate the ways that neoliberal marginalization impacts trauma-informed peace work.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction (Jeremy A. Rinker and Jerry T. Lawler)
  • Chapter One: Neoliberalism as a Violence System (Michael Minch)
  • Chapter Two: Toward Best Practices in Trauma-Informed Peacebuilding: Systematizing Interventions in Protracted Social Conflicts (Jeremy A. Rinker and Jerry T. Lawler)
  • Chapter Three: “It is like we have died, but we are still breathing”: The Trauma of Housing Resettled Refugees Within a Neoliberal Model (Holly Sienkiewicz, Maura Nsonwu, Elizabeth Biddle, Natacha Nikokeza, Paige Moore, and Mary Anne Busch)
  • Chapter Four: Trauma, Yoga, and Trauma Recovery: From the Clinical to the Sociological (Cindy Brooks Dollar)
  • Chapter Five: The Arts Are Not for Sale: Addressing Cultural Trauma and Prioritizing People over Profit in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (Shelly Clay-Robison)
  • Chapter Six: Interrupting the Cycle of Violence: Art, Marginalization and Collective National Trauma in Iraqi Kurdistan (Autumn R. Cockrell-Abdullah)
  • Chapter Seven: Peacebuilding Work in Restricted Political Environments: Local NGO–Government Relations in the South Caucasus (Margarita Tadevosyan)
  • Chapter Eight: Local Responses to Neoliberalism and Historical Trauma in El Salvador (Matthew Bereza)
  • Chapter Nine: An Identity-Based Approach to Community Resilience (Karina V. Korostelina)
  • Chapter Ten: Ecovillages, Sustainability, and Social and Environmental Healing (Joe Cole)
  • Afterword and Future Directions (Jeremy A. Rinker and Jerry T. Lawler)
  • Contributors’ Biographies
  • Index

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When Drs. Jerry T. Lawler and Jeremy A. Rinker met at Eastern Mennonite University’s Strategies for Trauma and Awareness and Resilience (STAR) Level I workshop in September 2016, neither would have thought that they would be coediting a volume together. A shared interest in collective historical trauma was spurred on by this initial engagement with the EMU/STAR community. Over the proceeding almost three and a half years, our collaboration and friendship has developed and grown. In acknowledging EMU/STAR’s faculty and curriculum, we are especially grateful to Dr. Elaine Zook-Barge for her gentle care and encouragement for us to publish our thoughts and Katie Mansfield, STAR Director, for assisting us to spread our call for papers among the global STAR community. We hope that the STAR curriculum continues to grow and find support for increased application worldwide.

As the project developed, Dr. Rinker had the support of many University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) friends and colleagues, including Master’s students in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies. Scotty Peterson, Tiffany Gallop, Muyassar Qozieva, and Alexis Shaw all provided a second set of eyes as copy editors for the book’s many contributions. Their support came at a crucial juncture in the project and we hope their engagement with the works herein was as rewarding for them as it was for the editors. In addition to wishing these students well as many of them pursue further studies, Dr. Rinker would like to thank his children (Kylor and Tarin) for their support and understanding. He ←ix | x→offers his feeble apologies for the missed weekend outings that creating this volume undoubtedly encouraged. Dr. Rinker’s spouse, Stephanie, has been the backbone of his childrens’ own learning as the editing of this manuscript has progressed. Thank you, Stephanie, and the boys, for the, often unacknowledged, support.

Dr. Lawler would like to acknowledge his many brave clinical clients (who cannot be named) suffering from various traumas who have taught him so much about the malady, taught him to help cure it, and caused him to expand his thinking about it beyond the clinical setting.

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The contributions in Realizing Nonviolent Resilience: Neoliberalism, Societal Trauma, and Marginalized Voice (hereafter referred to as Realizing Nonviolent Resilience) address a multipronged problematic in the contemporary fields of peace studies and conflict transformation. How is positive peace possible in the context of the unacknowledged collective historical traumas of the marginalized? Further, when such collective historical traumas are reinforced and maintained by what Henry Giroux calls the “terror of neoliberalism” (Giroux, 2008), how are peacebuilders to respond nonviolently (i.e., in a way that does not perpetuate any form of violence)? Through engaging a growing literature on both trauma-informed peacebuilding (Zelizer, 2008, 2013; Hester, 2016; Yoder, 2005, among others) and nonviolent responses to neoliberal marginalization (Meckfessel, 2016; Braithwaite and D’Costa, 2018; Foucault 1980, 2006), the chapters in Realizing Nonviolent Resilience aim to address the pervasive effect of collective historical and societal trauma in inhibiting the resolution of what Edward Azar (1984) called protracted social conflicts (PSCs). This aim is certainly complicated by the macro forces of political, economic, and societal oppression, most clearly conceptualized in the dominant modern ideology of neoliberalism. Neoliberal ideology and practices have disrupted traditional and indigenous structures of society to create unique roadblocks to lasting conflict reconciliation and resilience. Neoliberalism thereby acts to maintain PSCs and elide the ongoing impacts of collective historical trauma. Such complex forces are hegemonic, not easily amenable to top down amelioration, and commonly conceived of as intractable, or inevitable. The collection of ←1 | 2→works herein aims to develop practical insights into how peace practitioners might use grassroots trauma-informed interventions to “treat” traumatized peoples within the current social and economic milieu. The complex collage of nonviolent and trauma-informed peacebuilding practices that emerge in this book provides a patchwork of best practices in trauma-informed peacebuilding and can be read as responses to increasingly pervasive neoliberal norms worldwide. As editors, our intent is not to proscribe solutions, but to recenter the importance of collective historical trauma in the peacebuilding literature of this late modern area in which neoliberal hegemony is king. The creative responses that emerge from this recentering can develop informed resistance to the often hidden and controlling forces of neoliberalism as well as open vistas from which to pursue further research on the complex synergies between collective historical trauma and the effects of lasting marginalization.


Neoliberalism, roughly since the 1970s, has been the reigning economic ideology of our era. Still, while arguably the most important social justice–facing issue in the contemporary world, the term neoliberalism is not well understood by the general public. It is most commonly associated with free market economics and economic growth as the supposed best way to achieve human progress and happiness. It is foundational to neoliberalism that there should be a minimum of government intervention in economic affairs of the free market. In neoliberal ideology, there is a core belief that the open market regulates itself and all social problems. As a titular expression of economic freedom for all, neoliberalism is distinct from modern liberalism that saw poverty, inequality, disease, and discrimination as impediments to individual freedom and happiness. Instead, neoliberal ideology sees government interventions to allay these impediments via tax-supported government programs, or outright wealth redistribution, as counterproductive to countering social disintegration and conflict. A key neoliberal conviction is that individuals, and specifically the individual consumer, represent the primary social actor in any society. Over and above, any government, or identity group, neoliberal ideology favors individual, economically rational, actors that must compete and adapt to progress and flourish. Accordingly, neoliberalism promotes free trade, privatization, price deregulation, flexible labor markets, and reduced size of government. In recent years, it has been associated with austerity and attempts to reduce budget deficits by cutting spending on government social programs. Under such neoliberal social and economic policy, the underserved and/or minority groups in any society do not benefit from government-imposed social support, including labor laws supporting trade unions. The cascade effects of neoliberal policies erode any sense of ←2 | 3→the collective public good and undermine classical liberal concerns for equity in society. In this neoliberal hegemony, those with money, access, and political power strive and accrue increasing wealth and disproportionately benefit from these free market policies. Relatedly, as an ideology, neoliberalism delimits the ability to reckon with both past historical harms and current social inequalities as it is always future pointing and growth focused. As an ideology controlled by those in privileged powerful positions, themselves the heirs of inherited social position, neoliberalism is neither “new” or “liberal” in the classical sense.

The critique of neoliberalism would require many volumes and is not the primary aim of this volume. Rather, unmasking neoliberalism’s deep tentacles in marginalized and traumatized segments of society we believe will open resourceful and creative nonviolent resistance to the ideologies’ hegemonic practices. In general, critics charge that by lumping human services like health and education with consumer products and services, neoliberalism applies a market fundamentalist approach to all human endeavors. But profit motive activities are qualitatively different from nonprofit activities. By privileging profit and consumption over all else, humans, and especially collectivities of humans, are devalued in relation to the flow of goods and services they can produce and/or consume. Another way to express this human disjuncture in neoliberal ideology is that the noncommodifiable human endeavors, including the arts, cultural traditions, and institutions, are valued only for their free market impacts and not for the more qualitative and humanistic value they produce in society. While there has been a general widening of both wealth and income in Western societies caused, in part, by low-skilled workers in flexible labor markets having few options when their companies relocate to more favorable labor climates, the deregulation of capital flows across borders has increased global financial instability and resulted in an increasing number of economic shocks, exhibited most clearly in the recent 2007–2008 credit crisis in the United States. As Naomi Klein (2007) has argued, by embracing neoliberal ideology in the current globalized world, elites use “moments of collective trauma to engage in radical social and economic engineering” (Klein, 2007, p. 8). Such a critique of neoliberalism forms the bedrock of marginalized resistance and voice, even if that resistance and voice is often missing awareness of the full scope of past historical trauma in social conflict. We believe this volume both develops further awareness of the scope of past historical trauma and underscores this scope’s direct connection to the many injustices that neoliberalism foists on the marginalized.

It is only fair to point out that many proponents of neoliberal orthodoxy sincerely believe that the tenets of neoliberalism will ultimately benefit humanity. They would argue that although wealth disparities have indeed widened, extreme global poverty has been dramatically reduced. There is no question that billions have been rescued from abject poverty, and many developing countries have experienced sharp increases in life expectancy since the onset of neoliberal policies. ←3 | 4→A more educated population, declines in child labor and infant mortality and other benefits can be seen in the modern world’s free market expansion. In addition, foreign direct investment has been a way to transfer technology and stimulate growth in some developing countries. Privatization of formerly government-run enterprises has often resulted in more efficient delivery of services lowering the fiscal burden of governments. While there are certainly signs that neoliberal economic policy has positively developed many impoverished communities around the world, questions about the balance of benefits versus constraints of the spread of neoliberal ideology and consumer norms remain. Recent reports on the declining life expectancy in the United States (Woolf and Schoomaker, 2019) seem to provide one counterargument to neoliberal development claims. Despite competing claims about the benefits of neoliberal development, the elite control of neoliberal change processes raises many questions about whose interests are being met and whose past traumas should be given further public voice. In short, the democratic meanings of the drastic changes brought on by neoliberal ideology, practices, and policy remain contested given the uneven benefits and constraints of neoliberalism in practice.

As should by now be obvious, this book focuses not on the positive outcomes of neoliberal development, but the human wreckage it has caused since its inception. Many vulnerable groups and minority populations, formerly supported by government programs, union guarantees, price subsidies, and social safety nets, have been left behind. Long-standing intact cultural and collaborative practices have been disrupted or overthrown. The unquestioned embrace of neoliberal ideology, norms, and practices is an overall loss to humanity. As the social and cultural knowledge of much of the world’s rural and indigenous peoples vanishes, we all lose creative human knowledge and connection to other peoples and to the earth. Discounted as premodern and illiberal, indigenous wisdom is delegitimized and lost as the experience of the marginalized is circumvented by the hegemonic narrative of free market consumerism and individual economic self-sufficiency. In neoliberal theory, individuals were supposed to use initiative, resourcefulness, and hard work to make their own way in the new open market. Clearly such a rugged individualism and self-deterministic optimism of humanities’ ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps has been misplaced for many. Personal, geographical, or structural boundaries and inequalities remain daunting impediments to overcome. Large swaths of humanity have been uprooted or left behind to fend for themselves, and the collective traumas many of us share have been ignored or even delegitimized.

While neoliberalism per se is mainly defined at the set of economic principles originating in the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1970s, we include, herein, practices and processes which have traditionally been labeled colonialism or neocolonialism. We believe the hegemonic narrative of neoliberalism has been ←4 | 5→evolving for hundreds of years. Past first-world imperialist policies resemble modern neoliberal thinking in that they have each promoted a competitive free movement of capital and the “discovery” and exploitation of raw materials for the benefit of the powerful elite. Colonialism and imperialism resemble neoliberalism in the sense that they elevate unfettered power in the search of domestic benefit without taking stock of the humanitarian considerations and social detritus of such processes. Of course, the stated neoliberal hope, unlike colonial ambition, is that free markets will eventually benefit everyone, not just the first-world powerful. A rising tide, it is asserted, will elevate all boats. This belief in the trickle-down benefits of wealth accumulation is devoid of either multicultural or polycultural awareness (Prasad, 2001) and could be argued to be either aspirational, or completely distracting, from the realities of widening income gaps worldwide. The chapters in this edited volume call for the close study of the overlooked impacts of collective historical trauma and the “infrapolitics of the powerless” (Scott, 1990, p. xiii) in nonviolent resistance to such elite-controlled attempts at social change. While not exhaustive, the contributions to this volume do represent unique examples of the praxis implications for marginalized communities engaged in modern trauma-informed resistance to neoliberalism.

The editors have previously published on the topic of human trauma and a growing consensus, especially in the field of psychology, that trauma is more that the clinical definition of an individually experienced horrific event engendering nightmares, flashbacks, isolation, and hypervigilance (Rinker & Lawler, 2018). In that article, we outline a larger vision of trauma that is experienced both historically across generations and laterally across entire societies. Influenced by the groundbreaking works of Herman (1992), Hicks, (2003), and Van der Kolk (2014), we believe that understanding trauma, and how it appears in society, is crucial to conflict transformation. We believe that much like neoliberalism, trauma must be treated from a collective, not just individual, perspective. The sources of the trauma can be related to violent conflict or can result from chronic deprivation, humiliation, grinding poverty, or loss of cultural identity that is commonplace in all underclass or dispossessed populations. In this book, we aim to link this literal and cultural dispossession to neoliberal practices and collective historical trauma. In studying trauma as related to collective dispossession and marginalized oppression, we believe resistance to neoliberal ideology and norms is made possible.


Despite the “unresolved tensions” between three distinct approaches in the literature to the “historical trauma concept as a clinical condition, life stressor, and ←5 | 6→critical discourse” (Comas-Diaz, Hall, & Nevill, 2019), we argue that the concept does have a praxis-based consistency and rationale. The pieces in this volume all argue that collective historical trauma, though often vague and opaque, is a social psychological reality. Each piece in this volume focuses, in important ways, on the consequences of the failure to address this reality. Much as neoliberal norms undergird modern society, collective historical trauma acts as a grounding for individuals’ conflict experience. Despite only modest attention to collective historical trauma in either the fields of psychology or peace and conflict studies, the chapters in this volume attest to its critical importance in the work of peacebuilding. More than assumed, collective historical trauma is an active agent of conflict in all the contributions of this volume.

Collective historical trauma is a type of trauma that does not necessarily originate for one single event, but rather arises out of a long history of a communities’ experience with marginalization, structural violence, and/or systems of oppression. Different than the medicalized version of trauma described in the DSM-V (APA, 2013), historical trauma manifests differently in groups than in individuals. In presenting across time and across generations (see Volkan, 1997, among others), collective historical trauma has unique sequelae, social impacts, and potential openings for interventions. In describing historical trauma, Kirmayer, Gone, and Moses (2014) write: “The concept obtains its rhetorical force by consolidating two preexisting constructs: historical oppression and psychological trauma” (p. 300). The joining of these ideas, having been first envisioned by indigenous health professionals working in Native American communities, has, from the beginning, “been a complicated negotiation of ideas and values that appears to vacillate between emancipatory idealism (motivating approaches that re-socialize the medical) and pragmatic realism (defaulting to approaches that medicalize the social)” (Kirmayer, Gone, & Moses, 2014). Despite this complex negotiation of values and ideas, the existence of trauma in groups has been proven (see Volkan, 1997, 2017, among others) and historically documented (see Evans-Campbell, 2008; Gottschalk, 2003, among others).

Still, even though there has been much research on the topic of memory distortion resulting from trauma (Williams & Banyard, 1998), little of this research has highlighted collective experience of oppression and marginalization and its relation to traumatic symptoms (for exceptions, see Williams, 2013, Helms, Nicholas & Green, 2012). Despite limited attention to oppression and marginalization in the trauma literature, the prevalence of collective historical traumas in recent human history (e.g., the Holocaust, the slave trade, or the destruction of indigenous peoples and cultures) appears seminal to both cycles of marginalization and social conflict. Indeed, there is some evidence that recollection of violent trauma in conflict situations may be amplified by the central nervous system as a means of making the recollection more salient to the individual (Southwick, Morgan, Nicolaou, ←6 | 7→&. Charney, 1997). Given the possibility of a biological reason for keeping fresh the memory of collective historical trauma, it seems reasonable to assume the existence of such a type of trauma. Whether such trauma is the driver of destructive and violent social conflict, or if it is seen or unseen, does not itself matter. Its very existence as a variable in conflict establishes a level of importance. Through cycles of violence, a traumatized society becomes hopeless about its future as anything but conflict-ridden, and although the sequelae of any two collective traumas may appear differently, violent conflict’s foundation in traumatic experience is assured (Rinker & Lawler, 2018). Still, even though collective historical trauma clearly exists, determining how it works or how the phenomenon interacts with other social processes like inequality or marginalization remains much more elusive.


Anti-racism and multicultural educators have long realized the need for acknowledgment and have attempted to address, not suppress, past violence to build not only knowledge of suffering but also privileged allies ready to spread that knowledge. We believe that acknowledgment is in some important sense the opposite of marginalization, since marginalization refuses to acknowledge the reality of the historical pain inflicted. Iris Young has argued that “marginalization is perhaps the most dangerous form of oppression” (Young, 1990, p. 50) We argue this is because marginalization is a tactic used by the powerful to exclude or expel whole categories of people within society from equal participation, to not acknowledge their humanity or identity. In our reading, neoliberalism is one of the most transnational and cross-cultural forms of modern marginalization. Neoliberalism, in ways that race, caste, and gender cannot, marginalizes people far from the halls of elite power and has compounding carry-on effects in society. While neoliberalism intersects with other forms of marginalization, in many ways it underpins all modern expressions of power and control. Neoliberal norms of social agency mitigate attempts at collective resistance and acknowledgment and act to silence expressions of collective historical trauma.

In one way or another, healing efforts must account for and overcome the wounded state of modern society. Historical and societal trauma leave oppressed groups feeling impotent and fatalistic. Neoliberal norms reinforce a fatalistic muteness in the marginalized and oppressed. In our previous publication (Rinker & Lawler, 2018), we invoked the STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) model of healing developed by Eastern Mennonite University. Oppressed societies have often developed and narrated distorted and unrealistic attitudes about the groups oppressing them and have often entered cycles of what the STAR model refers to as “acting in,” without even realizing it. In this cycle, ←7 | 8→groups can redirect their accumulated pain and frustration into dysfunctional and even destructive behaviors. Remaining perhaps in denial of their historical and accumulated trauma, this collective historical trauma gets recycled in the form of mental health problems, random violence within their group, and numbing by drugs or alcohol. One need not look far to see such cycles playing out in American society. We believe this same process, supported by dominant neoliberal ideology, can be found around the world.

Practitioners at the grassroots must somehow first grapple with the behavioral realities of “acting in,” in order to make their intervention trauma informed. This book aims to wrestle with what it means for any conflict intervention to be described as such. While trauma-informed codifies a broad set of beliefs and practices, it is foundational to a trauma-informed approach that practitioners’ own attitudes and behaviors must be nonviolent. The enemy of conflict transformation are toxic processes and not individuals, groups, corporate entities, or nation states. Galtung (2007) labeled toxic conflict processes as contradictions, and the trauma-informed peacebuilder must identify contradictions in conflict dynamics and processes, not individual leaders. This may rankle many progressives and conservatives alike who prefer to view oppression as a struggle between vulnerable victims and malevolent perpetrators. We agree with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi that the very posing of an enemy who is seen as consciously invested in maintaining oppressive power over a vulnerable minority is, itself, a violent approach. Our approach aims to resist the comfortable space of the victim narrative by focusing on acknowledgment and shedding light on the importance of past trauma. To achieve transformation one must, as William Ury has argued, separate the people from the problem (Ury, Fisher and Patton, 1981) and see ourselves as all part of a “third-side” (Ury, 2000). Indeed, the STAR model describes a cycle of oppression in which the oppressors, and the oppressed, are “acting out” by embracing an “us vs them” mentality, dehumanizing the other, and developing “good vs evil” narratives in ways that make them helpless to extricate themselves from this vicious circle.


The chapters in this book resist simple victim narratives by directly or indirectly exploring the following broad research questions: Given the impairments of a traumatized society, how can peacebuilding practitioners and activists strategically and nonviolently resist (Sharp, 2005) the neoliberal hegemonic forces that have often wounded society and, thereby, maintained protracted social conflicts? How do social peace agents effectively promote healing at the grassroots level, and thereby transform conflict? This is not a book about a revolutionary overthrow of ←8 | 9→the economic order or a top-down condemnation of neoliberal failings. The hegemony of neoliberalism is a reality in today’s world, and there is always a temptation toward fatalism when arguing for change in such complex and multipronged systems of oppression. Like neoliberalism, a focus on collective trauma invokes negative and stress-inducing connotations. The fatalism of both resistance response and an educated gaze is, no doubt, driven by the ambiguity of such complex concepts. Despite emerging research on posttraumatic growth (See Peterson, Park, Pole, D’Andrea, & Seligman, 2008; Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2006, and; Park and Lechner, 2006, among others), the value of focusing social scientific research on the importance of collective historical trauma remains abstract and counternormative. Like how challenging neoliberal orthodoxy sounds somehow counterproductive to achieving social justice for the marginalized, challenging common tropes about trauma as anything but negative is resisted by the helping professions as insensitive, dismissive, or even exploitative. Still, both academic and activist forms of nonviolent resistance remain extremely relevant to both combating neoliberalism and acknowledging collective trauma. In fact, we believe our focus on collective historical trauma may open novel forms of contemporary nonviolent resistance to neoliberal orthodoxy. This is a book about interrogating the best practices of a trauma-informed peacebuilding that are working in the current realities of our neoliberal world order. The contributors to this volume describe positive, grassroots empowering practices for resistance and healing.

In the call for papers for this volume, the editors hoped to draw in innovative approaches to societal-level interventions to heal trauma resulting from neoliberalism. It was felt, first, that trauma-informed treatment on a collective basis, versus an individual basis, was relatively rare among on-the-ground peace and justice practitioners. But further, we believed there was a dearth of intervention specifically targeted to those populations who had been ravaged in some way by the surge of market-driven forces in the world. The project was undertaken with some trepidation due to its novelty as well as due to the uncertainty we felt in not knowing what kind of papers we would get in response. But as the contributions in this volume amply demonstrate, we have collected a wide variety of grassroots and creative approaches to trauma-informed peacebuilding in the context of neoliberal marginalization.

A central question that arises in conflict-affected and traumatized societies is what is an appropriate and accessible point of intervention? The chapters of this volume cover many possible points of intervention - cultural, institutional, indigenous, and theoretical, as well as modalities of intervention - art, encounter, health, and trauma-processing. The chapters are roughly organized on a spectrum from targeted to more holistic forms of intervention within a given collective or society. Early chapters describe surgical interventions involving specific target groups or modalities or describe theoretical grounds of realizing resistance. Even if some of ←9 | 10→these early chapters are more analytical than practical, the prescriptive nature of research and practice interventions is foregrounded. Later chapters describe more diffuse and broad-based trauma-informed programs and civil-society projects.

In the first chapter of this volume, Michael Minch aims to define neoliberalism as violence. In Neoliberalism as a Violence System, Minch methodically explains why neoliberalism is a system born of violence. For Minch, violence is not the product of neoliberalism, it is the foundation to it as a system. Put another way, rather than using the simple descriptive “violent” to analytically place neoliberalism in the field of peace and conflict studies, Minch argues that neoliberalism produces collective trauma by design. As a system, neoliberalism blocks power and access from the marginalized of any society and cannot just be described as violent but is itself a form of violence to be added to the typical typology of violence devised by Galtung (1969), which peace and conflict studies scholars so regularly resource. Minch’s insights into neoliberalism as an attack on democracy help to ground the critical theoretical praxis of trauma-informed peacebuilders in the chapters that follow. Minch’s chapter provides a contextual lens through which the other chapters can be viewed.

As we have stated above, neoliberalism is a complex concept. Starting with Minch’s piece is, therefore, intentional. As editors, we want readers to think about what neoliberalism is, and is not, prior to thinking about how to nonviolently intervene to transform our conflict-ridden world. We do not ask readers to agree with any single conception of this complex set of ideas, but we do ask that readers take a critical stance that asks about the origins, intentions, and beneficiaries of dominant neoliberal norms and practices. Minch’s chapter argues that violence is not a bug in the neoliberal system, it is the system’s primary feature. If this is the case, then how we respond to neoliberalism seems to point to a fearless acknowledgment of past wrongs and traumas. As a “promissory note” (Minch, this volume), this first chapter lays a critical foundation to envision the possibilities of complex systems change.

In the editors’ own article, which is the second chapter of this volume, Toward Best Practices in Trauma-Informed Peacebuilding: Systematizing Interventions in Protracted Social Conflicts, Jeremy A. Rinker and Jerry T. Lawler provide a theoretical framework of trauma-informed peacebuilding and describe two case examples where practitioners in two diverse cultural contexts help to frame many of the cross-cutting themes found in the remainder of the volume. Using the theories of trauma healing advanced by the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) program developed by Eastern Mennonite University, they outline the endless cycles of “acting in” and “acting out” suffered by traumatized societies following conflict and human displacement. Neither perpetrator, nor victim, can escape the circular pattern of expressing past trauma in a dysfunctional and cyclical manner that blocks long-term healing and transformation. Rinker describes ←10 | 11→intervention efforts on the ground from the point of view of displaced refugees. Exploring the conditions that caused the forced displacement of the Bhutanese from their homeland in the early 1990s and their relocation to the Mid-Atlantic United States, Rinker’s case study in this second chapter underscores the collective historical trauma of displacement as well as the complications of assimilating to neoliberal norms for the newly arrived Bhutanese in the Triad of North Carolina.

Lawler’s case study in this chapter chronicles efforts by a grassroots organization to begin to heal the seemingly interminable conflict between Israel and Palestine. As with the Bhutanese, both societies suffered traumatic violence and displacement. The Roots organization in the West Bank brings Israelis and Palestinians together in a common meeting area where old wounds can be processed, memorialized, and cycles of both “acting in” and “acting out” can be explored. Contact initiatives to establish interreligious learning, women’s groups, and project-oriented youth groups help this process along as each group undergoes a sort of “identity crisis” (Erikson, 1970) shifting from an us/them negative identity to a “we” identity. This frightening process requires the shedding of old categories, comforting each other, and empowering safety-enhancing ethnic identities. Lawler’s case study, in arguing that through encounter sharing a means of short circuiting “acting out” can be developed, parallels Rinker’s case study, which argues that in using techniques to revive the collective historical memory of displacement new forms of nonviolent resistance and narrative agency (Cobb, 2013) can be developed in traumatized communities. Moving from theory to intervention, this chapter attempts to systematize a trauma-informed peacebuilding approach by building on the idea that those marginalized by neoliberal systems of collective historical trauma have recourse to resistance and transformation through collective dialogue, memorialization, the sharing of identity, and cross-cultural encounters. This chapter helps mark a shift of emphasis in the volume from questions of “what” to questions of “how.” While each of the chapters that follow spend some amount of time theoretically defining what they mean by neoliberalism, collective trauma, and marginalization, they all do the work of describing the praxis of integrating trauma work with peacebuilding work to develop novel interventions as forms of resistance. Through the remainder of the volume, the three legs of the proverbial stool upon which this volume stands (neoliberalism, trauma, and marginal resistance) produce thematic patterns of conflict transformation and nonviolence resistance in complex arrays.

Refugee movement is frequently a byproduct of neoliberal forces. In the third chapter, Holly Sienkiewicz, Maura Nsonwu, Paige Moore, Lizzie Biddle, Mary Anne Busch, and Natacha Nikokeza return us to Greensboro, North Carolina, to explore the traumatic aftermath of a tragic fire in the newly arrived refugee community. In their chapter entitled “It is like we have died, but we are still breathing”: The Trauma of Housing Resettled Refugees, the authors, all connected to the Center for New ←11 | 12→North Carolinians (CNNC), a refugee service center connected to the University of North Carolina Greensboro, outline the neoliberal policies and practices of refugee resettlement. After first giving an overview of global immigration in the past and today, as well as a typology of immigrant populations, the authors then narrow their focus to the specific travails of people emigrating from the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo. Focusing on the basic need for housing, the authors take a critical look at the shoddy conditions, newly arrived refugees are often placed in upon arrival in the United States. The emergence of profit-driven neoliberal forces, and its attendant ideology of self-reliance, magnifies the challenges facing immigrants attempting to assimilate into a new home. Recent radical policy changes restricting immigration to the United States, and limiting services to those who are let in, are dramatized in their case example chronicling the tragic death of five Congolese children in a fire in 2018. The chapter describes a graphic chain of connecting causal events beginning with an economic ideology which forces refugee families into substandard housing and ending with the death of helpless marginalized refugees. Leaving the reader wondering how often such tragedies are repeated across the globe, the authors conclude with concrete suggestions on reforming the resettlement system in the United States with an emphasis on humanity versus neoliberal self-sufficiency. In documenting the trauma experienced prior to resettlement as well as the community residents’ collective and continuous trauma resulting from the aftermath of the fire, the authors succinctly argue for the rethinking of the neoliberal model of refugee resettlement in the United States. Like the pieces that follow, this important chapter provides pragmatic recommendations for systematically addressing the gaps in services to marginalized communities in our neoliberal era.


X, 286
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (October)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. X, 286 pp., 5. b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Jeremy A. Rinker (Volume editor) Jerry T. Lawler (Volume editor)

Jeremy A. Rinker received his PhD from George Mason University/School for Conflict Analysis & Resolution and his MA in religious studies from University of Hawaii. He is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies. Rinker is founding Editor of the Journal of Transdisciplinary Peace Praxis. Jerry T. Lawler, PhD is a psychologist at the Greater Baltimore Counseling Center and Safe Harbor Behavioral Health, Baltimore. He recieved his MA in psychology from San Jose State University and his PhD in clinical psychology from California School of Professional Psychology (now Alliant University). He has been in private practice in Baltimore since 2001.


Title: Realizing Nonviolent Resilience
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298 pages