Ideas in Conflict The effect of frames in the Nepal conflict and peace process
Abstract: In 1996 the state of Nepal was challenged by a Maoist insurgency, resulting in a decade-long civil war. During the course of the subsequent peace process the parliamentary parties found themselves agreeing to significant political changes, including a republican constitution. This study approaches the Nepal case on the assumption that the discursive aspect of social relations is one important factor in understanding how specific events unfold and why actors do one thing and not another.Two frames are investigated using frame analysis in terms of their representation of problem, cause and solution: a terrorism frame from the period of conflict and a peace frame from the period of conflict resolution. The terrorism frame is categorised as a negative frame and the peace frame as a positive frame. This overarching difference is found to have implications for the effects of the respective frames.In contrast to traditional frame analysis, which tends to focus on the success of a frame and the effects on a specific audience, this study investigates the effects of frames on the actors involved in the framing process in terms of their perceived manoeuvrability for action. This approach is formalised in a model of four types of logic of actor effects that is applied to the Nepal case. The analysis of frame effects is based on first-hand interviews with key actors, such as former prime ministers and top leaders of political parties and civil society. From this material, the study gives insight into how the two frames influenced the actors’ perceived manoeuvrability. This actor-centred approach shows that the frames affected the actors in both enabling and restrictive ways and thus influenced the outcome in Nepal. For example, it is shown that frames created during the conflict were considered a prerequisite for the legitimate use of military force. The study also shows the unintended effects of framing, captured in the model as the effect of self-entrapment, and highlights the coercive character of ideas in making actors perceive themselves as forced to take a certain action or position.
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