Category: Featured News, News, On Campus, Students

Title: SFS Senior Researching Conflict Wins 2024 Marshall Scholarship

Georgetown senior Hari Choudhari (SFS ‘24), who studies community-centric peacebuilding practices, is among the five Georgetown students and alumni receiving a prestigious 2024 Marshall Scholarship. Choudhari joins the 51 Marshall scholars selected this year to study at a U.K. institution. The Georgetown Center for Research and Fellowships oversees the Marshall Scholarship and several other UK fellowships, guiding students through the nomination and development process. Choudhari will use his scholarship to pursue peace and conflict studies at universities in Britain and Northern Ireland.

From studying discourse around the Russian invasion of Ukraine to assisting communities still reckoning with the fallout of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Choudhari’s interest in conflict has been the throughline of his undergraduate experience, and he hopes to build on it to advocate for robust solutions to conflict in a career in foreign policy.

“It’s clear that throughout his undergraduate career, Hari has been shaping himself into a future expert of conflict and peacekeeping,” Center for Research and Fellowships Director Lauren Tuckley says. “At every turn, he has taken opportunities to further understand the complexities of conflict, both in the classroom and outside of it.”

This desire to understand conflict and a deep commitment to service drove Choudhari to SFS. “When my high school college counselor told me about Georgetown, and SFS in particular, everything sort of lined up. To me, international relations is a field that affects the lives of millions, and cannot be pursued without a core, deep-rooted conviction in service and human dignity,” he says. “Failing to do so risks truly catastrophic impacts, particularly when it comes to issues of conflict, peace and security.”

Understanding Conflict from the Top-Down

Throughout his time at Georgetown, Choudhari has devoted himself to understanding the policy approaches to conflict. In particular, he credits Contemporary U.S. Foreign Policy with Dr. William Schlickenmaier and Ambassador Teresita Schaffer’s Practicing Diplomacy Abroad with giving him a deep knowledge of U.S. foreign policy, as well as the skills necessary to find solutions to conflict. Fascism in Everyday Life with Andrew Bickford, too, helped change his perspective on the role the military plays in modern political thought, and it sparked an interest in how violence is justified in politics. Choudhari went on to assist Bickford in his research in military anthropology to explore this problem. 

As a 2022-2023 Laidlaw Scholar, Choudhari conducted his own research on the shift in German security policy following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, known as zeitenwende. In his research, he aimed to understand how rhetoric around security could change so dramatically in a short period of time and whether these changes would have a lasting impact. This research was ultimately published with the American-German Institute, where Choudhari also served as an intern. 

Community-Centric Solutions

While Choudhari is interested in peacebuilding worldwide, his experience working with the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh, Northern Ireland this summer solidified his desire for a community-centered approach. 25 years after the landmark Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, Choudhari still saw firsthand the two, often distinct, tracks of peacemaking: the official, “top down” policy process and the work of grassroots community groups. Choudhari’s time at the Centre coincided with difficult setbacks for the latter—in September, the Legacy Bill, deeply unpopular among Northern Irish politicians, passed the House of Commons, and budget cuts from Westminster threatened the future of the Centre’s peacebuilding initiatives. 

“For the groups we worked with, all of this is deeply personal. How could it not be? Many of their neighborhoods are still divided by towering ‘peace’ walls, and border towns still carry the scars of IRA bombings and Loyalist reprisals. Yet for Westminster, modern Northern Ireland is a peaceful, post-conflict society, and civic-government dialogue mechanisms have been allowed to quietly fall apart,” Choudhari says.

Choudhari himself understands the physical and psychological toll of violence—in March 2023, just before he began working at the Centre for Cross Border Studies, he was the victim of a violent robbery that profoundly disrupted his life and viscerally demonstrated the importance of his work in conflict resolution, particularly in its focus on preventing civilian violence.

“While I survived with severe physical injuries, the true damage lay far deeper than I realized,” Choudhari says. “It was only after my experience with violence that I noticed just how abstract this discourse [around violence used by high-level political actors] was.”

The disconnect between those living in post-conflict areas and political power brokers struck Choudhari as not only damaging, but, in some respects, avoidable. Civic-government dialogue and the collaboration between the United States and the United Kingdom were key to realizing the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, yet they have fallen by the wayside in recent decades. Choudhari sees a revival of this transatlantic grassroots cooperation, as well as further investment in grassroots organizations, as vital to creating durable peace in Northern Ireland, bringing together both top-down and bottom-up political processes. 

“I have chosen to focus on community dialogue mechanisms in peace processes precisely because they enable both policy approaches to work symbiotically, maximizing their advantages and minimizing their weaknesses,” he says.

Bridging the Gap

Through the Marshall Scholarship, Choudhari will take part in this collaboration between the U.S. and U.K. himself, learning from U.K. scholars invested in making grassroots peacebuilding a priority and preparing himself for a career in policymaking.

“[Choudhari’s] proposal to bridge the gap between on-the-ground critical perspectives and top-down foreign policy making—with the view to becoming a practitioner of international politics who respects peace and self-determination for all—is innovative and significant,” says Darragh Gannon, Georgetown’s associate director of Global Irish Studies. “As a young scholar from the United States, Hari is ideally placed to engage with the ‘peace generation’ of Northern Ireland.”

By planning to study at both Queen’s University of Belfast and King’s College London, Choudhari hopes to tailor the Marshall Scholarship particularly to his interests in the Northern Ireland peace process and peacebuilding more broadly. Choudhari’s dream is to work at the Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), where he will bring his knowledge and first-hand experience to guide U.S. foreign policy towards greater civic dialogue.