Original Research

A transdisciplinary approach to understanding the causes of wicked problems such as the violent conflict in Rwanda

Andreas Velthuizen
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 8, No 1 | a5 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v8i1.5 | © 2012 Andreas Velthuizen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 February 2016 | Published: 31 July 2012

About the author(s)

Andreas Velthuizen, Institute for Dispute Resolution in Africa at the University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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The paper is presented against a background of many wicked problems that confront us in the world today such as violent crime, conflict that emanates from political power seeking, contests for scarce resources, the increasing reaction all over the world to the deterioration of socio-economic conditions and the devastation caused by natural disasters. This article will argue that the challenge of violent conflict requires an innovative approach to research and problem solving and proposes a research methodology that follows a transdisciplinary approach. The argument is informed by field research during 2006 on the management of knowledge in the Great Lakes region of Africa, including research on how knowledge on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is managed. The paper will make recommendations on how transdisciplinary research is required to determine the causes of violent conflict in an African context and how practitioners and academics should engage in transdisciplinarity. It was found that trans- disciplinary research is required to gain better insight into the causes of violent conflict in an African context. It requires from the researcher to recognise the many levels of reality that has to be integrated towards a synthesis to reveal new insights into the causes of violent conflict, including recognising the existence of a normative-spiritual realm that informs the epistemology of Africa. It furthermore requires a methodology that allows us to break out of the stifling constraints of systems thinking and linear processes into the inner space at the juncture where disciplines meet (the diversity of African communities).

Keywords: Africa, conflict, Rwanda, crime, genocide, violence, transdisciplinary

Disciplines: politics, education, law, epistemology, sociology, theology, management science


Africa; conflict; Rwanda; crime; genocide; violence; transdisciplinary


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1. Are we hearing the voices? Africanisation as part of community development
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doi: 10.4102/hts.v73i3.4512