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Schooling in conflict: an ethnographic study from Lebanon

Erik van Ommering (Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 6 September 2011




The purpose of this paper is to propose a new approach to understanding the interrelationships between education and violent conflict, namely, one that focuses on the multifaceted, context‐specific impact of conflict on school communities and departs from the lived experiences of teachers and students in conflict‐affected places.


The paper is based on ethnographic, child‐centred research in elementary schools in Lebanon. It explores how the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel and subsequent internal sectarian strife in Lebanon have shaped the ways in which school communities confront issues of violence and identity.


By viewing the relationship between education and violent conflict as multifaceted and context‐dependent, this paper elicits how schools may become complicit in the continuing of violent conflict, rather than supporting its ending. It shows how teachers' pleas for peace are overruled by political conflict, partly as a result of children's engagement with politics. The paper argues for grounding educational interventions in children's lived realities so as to optimise their capacities for bridging differences and shaping a better future.


The lived experiences of students and teachers in conflict zones have rarely been exposed. On the basis of anthropological research, this paper offers original and critical insights into the interrelationships between education and violent conflict, based on the perspectives of elementary school students and their educators.



van Ommering, E. (2011), "Schooling in conflict: an ethnographic study from Lebanon", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 31 No. 9/10, pp. 543-554.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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