Societal Transformation in Conflict Contexts (TRANSFORM)

2017 - 2020 (Completed)
Research Project
In times of radical uncertainty and flux: how do individual actions inspire collective action or lead to new institutional practices in ways that determine the direction of a society?

What can we learn from conflict contexts about the driving forces of societal change? TRANSFORM studies the small everyday acts of common people in violent conflict and civil war, and how these small acts can be quite heroic as they attempt to challenge dehumanizing trends of exclusion and abuse.

  • This project is coordinated by PRIO. Visit the project's home page here.

WHAT IS NEW? The project involves a close examination of the origins of individual deeds in violent conflict, and the process by which these acts encourage collective action and new institutional practices. Such individual, social and institutional drivers of transformation have not previously been studied systematically within one project, as disciplinary divides often prevent insights on one from informing research on the others.

TRANSFORM combines a theoretical curiosity about moral acts in situations of radical uncertainty with empirical research on actual practices and processes during civil wars in Syria, Somalia and Myanmar. Data collection combines life histories and institutional ethnography with a new method that uses graphic illustrations in focus group discussions, and will take place in the three countries and among refugee communities from these countries in the region and in Norway.
Collecting data on the societal impacts of ordinary citizens' moral counter-acts of empathy, care and protection in conditions of suffering and marginalization, TRANSFORM aims to make a ground-breaking contribution to the newly established field of the 'anthropology of the good'.

The research will be carried out by researchers at PRIO in collaboration with the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), the University of London and the Universidad de Extremadura in Spain. TRANSFORM will produce academic articles, and create innovative outputs: cartoons based on personal conflict stories.

Funding program



Publication : Academic article

Education Activism in the Syrian Civil War:Resisting by Persisting

This article analyzes education activists’ resilience in emergencies, building on life story interviews with Syrians who engaged in civil society initiatives ...
Conflict  Humanitarian issues  The Middle East and North Africa  Migration

Cindy Horst (project leader), PRIO