Intervention and culture: An anthropological approach to peace operations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Culture is increasingly an important consideration in peace operations. Efforts to ameliorate culture-based difficulties between organizations participating in missions and between mission elements and local populations are proliferating. These focus on providing guidance about what to expect and how to act toward individuals from other cultural groups. This article shows that such advice is insufficient for understanding how culture affects peacekeeping. A general framework is presented for linking cultural elements to a deeper symbolic level from which peacekeeping derives its legitimacy, standing, and authority. The importance of the root metaphor of the United Nations as an institution for creating a world in which national interests and cut-throat geopolitical power relations are trumped by collective action is explicated. Peacekeeping is shown to be linked to this root metaphor through a number of behavioral inversions. When those inversions are not part of a peacekeeping mission, the entire instrument of peacekeeping is destabilized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-544
Number of pages18
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Cultural inversion
  • Intervention
  • Peacekeeping
  • Symbol system
  • United Nations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Intervention and culture: An anthropological approach to peace operations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this