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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