School of Politics and International Relations

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Yumiko Kaneko

Doctoral Researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences



Yumiko Kaneko is a doctoral researcher in the School of Politics and International Relations, where she is affiliated with the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies (IAPS) and the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ). She holds a BA in Commerce specialized in Economics from Meiji University (Japan), a diploma majored in Development Studies and International Relations from School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and an MSc in Development Administration and Planning from University College London. Her main area of interest is humanitarian assistance in post-conflict environment, with a particular focus upon building resilience, community development, security and psychosocial approaches. Her research is funded by the Japanese government.

Research Summary

Thesis Title: The role of psychosocial approaches in development planning following post-conflict situations in Timor-Leste.

Much humanitarian work and peacebuilding and statebuilding initiatives have been implemented in war-shattered countries by international and bilateral institutions, and NGOs in recent years. Humanitarian action is never apolitical and nor is psychosocial work as a domain of humanitarianism. The paucity of studies about psychosocial programmes has contributed to receiving countries being in aid-dependency relationship, undermining their independence. This PhD research examines the impact of psychosocial approaches from a political sociology perspective. Two key models are identified and critically assessed. There are the 'trauma' and the 'resilience' models.

During the 1990s, trauma models especially focused on post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) were popular among aid agencies for war-affected populations, drawing on the popularity of counselling services in Western culture as a coping process towards mental problems. Psychosocial work was popular with donors in conflict and post-conflict societies because the work sought to both alleviate suffering and contribute to peace by breaking perceived cycles of trauma and violence.

However, there has been debate over whether the current trauma coping therapy might make the war-affected populations merely passive victims. Contrarily, the concept of resilience has gained interest as fostering models which encourage people to be active survivors. Resilience is conceptualized as the capacity to return into a previous situation and to bounce back from crises and shocks such as terrorism, poverty, and natural disasters. This concept has become key to policies ranged over many subjects (e.g., security, finance, state-building et al) following 9/11. Nevertheless, its shifting meaning has been controversial. A key ethical concern has been that resilience is a one-sided distribution of responsibility to individuals which has supposedly fitted with the nature of neoliberal governance emphasizing preparedness, individual responsibility and adaptability.

This research critically and empirically analyses the impact of psychosocial approaches including trauma and resilience models. It is then aiming to provide policy implications of effective methods for psychosocial approaches especially in the context of Timor-Leste.


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