What Is Peace Studies? Discuss! (post 4)

by joanfallon on March 1, 2013

In advance of a day-long faculty retreat in late summer 2012, Kroc Institute Director Scott Appleby asked four members of the faculty to present and comment on definitions of the interdisciplinary field of peace studies. This is the fourth in a series of posts reflecting the conversation, led by professors Atalia Omer, Ernesto Verdeja, Jason Springs, and Larissa Fast.

The self-critical nature of peace studies  Jason Springs, assistant professor of religion, ethics and peace studies

My task is to reflect on the claim that “peace studies interrogates its own presuppositions.”

Peace studies as a field of inquiry:  I’ll paraphrase the philosopher Alasdaire MacIntyre’s conception of a “tradition” as a historically extended, socially embodied argument — an argument, largely, about the nature and basis of the very goods around which the tradition organizes and orients itself (After Virtue). In the case of peace studies, the operative sense of tradition would be of a “tradition of discourse.” To use this framing for reflection upon peace studies as a “self-interrogating” interdisciplinary complex brings to light both strengths and risks.

First, a risk:  the emphasis upon “argument” could easily lend itself to a factionalized and fragmented exchange between competing camps, in which the participants argue incessantly and unproductively, and, perhaps “past each other,” from the opposing and incommensurable theoretical and methodological presuppositions associated with (or rooted in) their home disciplines. And yet, if we qualify MacIntyre’s reference to “argument” as an “unfolding, critical conversation,” then his definition actually illuminates many examples of the way that peace studies and peace research has, in fact, unfolded over the past several decades through processes of contesting and interrogating its organizing concepts, insights, and objectives.

Some examples:

1) The exchange between Johann Galtung and Kenneth Boulding that unfolded across the pages of the Journal of Peace Research over several decades about the conception of “violence” that peace studies would need to take up in order to actually address the causes, conditions, results of violent conflict, and to promote and build sustainable peace (often characterized as the debate over “negative” vs “positive” conceptions of peace.) Galtung argued that is was dangerously narrow to view peace as “the opposite of war,” and thus to “limit peace studies to war-avoidance studies, and more particularly avoidance of big wars or super-wars (defined as wars between big powers or superpowers), and even more particularly to the limitation, abolition, or control of super-weapons. Important interconnections among types of violence are left out…”

2) Emerging from these debates over positive and negative peace was recognition of the need for a multi-focal analytical lenses for identifying and assessing different forms of violence, and in particular the ways that “one type of violence may be reduced or controlled at the expense of increase or maintenance of the another.” To this end, Galtung devised and developed the concept of “structural violence” (in contrast to “direct violence”), and further on, confronted the need to develop a concept of “cultural violence.”

These concepts emerged from the critical conversation of peace studies and provide another example of the fruitfulness of conceiving of peace studies as an interdisciplinary complex persistently unfolding as a critical conversation constituted, in part, by the interrogation of the central concepts and values that orient and inform the conversation itself.

3) The reconceptualization of “conflict” in the conflict transformation literature, from that which is the opposite of peace — and thus which needs to be resolved — to re-framing conflict as a natural and inevitable part of inter-relationality that can be engaged in more or less healthy ways and which might be engaged transformatively — as an engine for positive change — rather than as something to be rooted out.

4) The still unfolding critical conversations about the kinds of justice that peace studies ought to be concerned with: retributive/restorative; reconciliation/forgiveness; distributive justice vis-a-vis impact of political economy and globalization upon the conditions and causes of violence in all its forms, and the promotion of justice, as indispensible elements for “justpeace.”

5) The dichotomy of “international/domestic” as it frames and guides our projects and curriculum, and especially in so far as there might be a tacit hierarchy between these terms.

Peace studies as based upon disciplinary humility

If we conceptualize the peace studies tradition of discourse as an unfolding argument about such central concepts as these, then the fruitfulness and utility of our reflective conversations will depend upon disciplinary humility. To speak of disciplinary humility is to speak of openness to the possibility, indeed the inevitability, that other cross-disciplinary vantage-points can, and will, illuminate blind-spots, enrich, and perhaps supplant the work, tools, and insights available in my own training and home discipline. It is to speak of flexibility and abiding sense of fallibilism.

In recent years at Kroc, we have sustained a series of conversations together in this vein for some time now. In such venues as: workshops in which we have shared and collaboratively developed syllabi; panel discussions and break-out sessions at the annual Summer Institute for Faculty in Peace Studies Program Development; various faculty and project meetings, usually oriented by the integrative intentions of strategic peacebuilding. To my mind, this points to the indispensibility of further such conversations to the life and health — and overall effectiveness — of the peace institute, and as much, if not more so, to peace studies itself.

In this vein of the notion of humility as a central virtue for purposes of multi- and inter-disciplinary conversation, I’ll read a passage from William James’ essay of 1907, entitled “What Pragmatism Means” (his second lecture from Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, 1906-7). James is here describing a sensibility he ascribes to pragmatism as an approach to inquiry and criticism, but I think his insights apply equally to the multi- and inter-disciplinary character of peace studies as well. I’ll make some small adjustments to the passage and ask you to think of “peace studies” where I read the term “pragmatism.”

I’d say that this passage exemplifies virtues and interdisciplinary sensibilities that we at Kroc, at our best, seek to acquire and sustain. Need I say that, in my judgment, we ought to go striving for it in our work and in what we model for our students?

James:

“If you follow the pragmatic method, you cannot look at any [theory or method] as closing your quest. You must bring out of each . . . its practical cash-value, set it at work within the stream of your experience. It appears less as a solution, then, than as a program for more work, and more particularly as an indication of the ways in which existing realities may be changed. Theories thus become instruments, not answers to enigmas, in which we can rest. We don’t lie back upon them, we move forward, and on occasion, make nature over again by their aid. Pragmatism unstiffens our theories, limbers them up and sets each one at work. Being nothing essentially new, it agrees with nominalism for instance, in always appealing to particulars; with utilitarianism in emphasizing practical aspects; with positivism in its disdain for verbal solution, useless questions and metaphysical abstractions . . . . [Pragmatism] has no dogmas, and no doctrines, save its approach. . . . [It] lies in the midst of our theories, like a corridor in a hotel. Innumerable chambers open out of it. In one you may find a man writing an atheistic volume; in the next someone on his knees praying for faith and strength; in a third a chemist investigating the body’s properties. In a fourth system of idealistic metaphysics is being excogitated; in a fifth the impossibility of metaphysics is being shown. But they all own the corridor, and all must pass through it if they want a practicable way of getting into or out of their respective rooms.” (510)

Surely this is not the only way of thinking about the practice-oriented, inter- and multi-disciplinarity of peace studies, but I’ll admit that this passage comes to my own mind quite often as I walk down the hallways of the Kroc Institute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Is Peace Studies? Discuss! (post 3)

by joanfallon on November 7, 2012

In advance of a day-long faculty retreat in late summer 2012, Kroc Institute Director Scott Appleby asked four members of the faculty to present and comment on definitions of the interdisciplinary field of peace studies. This is the third in a series of posts reflecting the conversation, led by professors Atalia Omer, Ernesto Verdeja, Jason Springs, and Larissa Fast.

The Theory-Practice Dimension of Peace Studies  Larissa Fast, assistant professor of conflict resolution

Whereas conflict studies focuses on conflict, but not so much on the conditions for peace, peace studies addresses the causes of conflict, war and other forms of violence as well as approaches to constructive transformation.

Peace studies also emphasizes the stories of individuals caught in conflict in ways that some other disciplines do not. As mentioned, this implies an unwavering focus on real problems, real people, real issues as they unfold on the ground, amidst conflict. However, the complex causes of conflict and violence at home, not just elsewhere, challenge us to think about the hierarchy that exists between those that examine/work on conflict and violence elsewhere and those who work on conflict and violence domestically. This is a special challenge for an international institute, where conflicts elsewhere may seem to be privileged.

In the Kroc master’s program, we promote the notion of reflective practice which we see as necessary to developing scholar-practitioners who must examine what we do and why. For example, we must evaluate the effectiveness of particular interventions; promote methods of self-reflection and growth as scholars and practitioners, through which experience in the field results in continual learning; and constantly ask what works and why. Examining our assumptions about the way we think intervention might work, for example, is an ongoing process.

This commitment to self-reflection as scholars and practitioners is an important element in how we ground our master’s program. Examining when and how we are (and are not) effective spurs changes in our praxis. This is also what it means to focus on the transformative nature of peace studies.

A question before us that remains only partially addressed: How do we integrate the art of reflective practice more fully into the undergraduate and doctoral curricula?

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What Is Peace Studies? Discuss! (post 2)

November 1, 2012

In advance of a day-long faculty retreat in late summer 2012, Kroc Institute Director Scott Appleby asked four members of the faculty to present and comment on definitions of the interdisciplinary field of peace studies. This is the second in a series of posts reflecting the conversation, led by professors Atalia Omer, Ernesto Verdeja, Jason […]

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What Is Peace Studies? Discuss! (post 1)

October 31, 2012

In advance of a day-long faculty retreat in late summer 2012, Kroc Institute Director Scott Appleby asked four members of the faculty to present and comment on definitions of the interdisciplinary field of peace studies. This is the first in a series of posts reflecting the conversation, led by professors Atalia Omer, Ernesto Verdeja, Jason […]

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Comments on 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Winner

October 12, 2012

Peter Wallensteen, a research professor at the Kroc Institute and a peace researcher from Uppsala University in Sweden, shares his thoughts on the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Earlier today, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the prize to the 27-nation European Union.  “The 2012 Peace Prize goes to an organization that definitely has played a role […]

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Mosque Condemns Attacks in Libya

September 13, 2012

Rashied Omar, research scholar of Islamic studies and peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, is the coordinating imam of Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa. He issued this statement today from Cape Town, where he spends the fall semester each year.  The Claremont Main Road Masjid joins the Libyan […]

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Jerusalem: Peace or Apocalypse?

August 23, 2012

Professor Atalia Omer is teaching a new class this fall at Notre Dame called Jerusalem: Peace or Apocalypse? She first taught a similar class at Harvard, when she was a teaching assistant completing her doctorate. She’s clearly excited about bringing it to Notre Dame. As a scholar, Atalia studies questions at the intersection of religion, […]

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“Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do” for the 2012 Master’s Class in International Peace Studies

May 30, 2012

On May 21, Kroc Institute alumni director Anne Hayner addressed the graduating master’s class in international peace studies. The following are excerpts from her remarks. Two years ago you came to us from Portland, Bethlehem, Montevideo, Ottawa, Kampong Cham City, Los Angeles, Belfast, and Pietermaritzburg. This week you begin spreading out again, to Kampala, New […]

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Johan Galtung, Anti-Semitism, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion: A Teachable Moment

May 23, 2012

By Atalia Omer & Jason Springs Johan Galtung, long ago dubbed the “father of peace studies,” became the topic of controversial headlines in early May 2012, after an interview with him appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. With a combination of shock and ridicule, critics noted that Galtung appealed to The Protocols of the Elders […]

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“Go preach love…” Fr. Jenkins’ commencement address

May 17, 2012

On May 7, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, gave the commencement address to the 2012 graduates of Wesley Theological Seminary. Speaking at Washington National Cathedral, Fr. Jenkins presented a message about the state of national discourse that goes straight to the heart of peacebuilding. This is the full […]

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