Elisabeth Olivius is a lecturer in peace and conflict studies. Her research explores how gendered relations of power are produced and reshaped in conflict, displacement and peacebuilding.
My research can be located at the intersection between peacebuilding and conflict management, and gender equality policy and practice. I am particularly interested in how gendered relations of power are produced and reshaped in peace processes and in humanitarian aid to refugees, as well as in how ideas about gender equality are constructed and applied in these fields.
Presently I am primarily working with the project "Feminists, Ethno-nationalists and Peace Activists? The Role of Diasporic Minority Women's Organizations in Burma's Conflict Transformation Process", funded by the Swedish Research Council 2016-2019. The growing body of research examining the different ways in which diasporas engage in conflicts and peacebuilding has remained overwhelmingly gender blind; very little is known about women's political activism in the diaspora, or about the gendered impacts of diaspora engagements in homeland conflicts and peace processes. Addressing this research gap, this project examines the activism of diasporic minority women's organizations and its impact on conflict transformation and peacebuilding in Myanmar. It approaches diaspora engagement in homeland conflicts as a gendered phenomenon, structured by gendered relations of power but also potentially contributing to reshape gender orders in the homeland. Further, in the context of ongoing changes, this projects will contribute with highly timely new knowledge about the gendered dynamics of political transition and conflict transformation in the country.
I am also leading a project within the research programme Varieties of Peace, funded by The Swedish Foundation for Social Sciences and Humanities 2017-2024. In my project, I focus on the case of Myanmar and explore the local Varieties of Peace that emerge in the shadow of ongoing armed conflict, as well as how they can be conceptualized and explained.
My doctoral thesis, which I defended in December 2014, examined how, and with what effects, gender equality norms are constructed, interpreted and applied in the global governance of refugees. The thesis was based on case studies of humanitarian aid to Burmese refugees in refugee camps in Bangladesh and Thailand, but also linked local aid practices to the dominant constructions of gender equality which can be found in global policy frameworks. The study contributed with new knowledge about what happens when feminist ideas are institutionalized in global governance by focusing on the global governance of refugees; a field that has thus far received little attention in the growing literature on feminism, gender and global governance. Drawing on a theoretical framework informed by postcolonial feminist theory and Foucauldian thought on power and governing enabled the thesis to capture how gender equality norms operate as governing tools, and situate the politics of gender equality in refugee camps in the context of global relations of power and marginalization.
I have published research on various other aspects of the politics of gender equality in humanitarian aid. I have, for example, examined an emerging shift towards focusing on men and masculinity in gender equality policy and practice, and the opportunities and conditions for meaningful political participation for refugees in camps.