I have already mentioned (here) that one of the aims of the Peace Education Project (PEP) is to reduce the gap between research and practice, in the particular field of peace education.
The initial impetus for this blog, however, was rather different. The idea emerged as a result of the frustration I was feeling with the political academic environment (research groups, research projects, conference panels, job market) with regards to the treatment of novice, niche, and interdisciplinary fields. There is a lot of 'talk' about interdisciplinarity, but in practice, stubborn, traditional disciplinary rigidities come in the way. This materialises in to all sorts of problems, from finding suitable supervisors, to getting your library to subscribe to interdisciplinary journals, to finding a space where your work 'fits in' at conference panels. Of course, interdisciplinarity is not an easy thing; it was one of the hardest and most demanding aspects of my doctoral research (more about this in another post). Yet, this difficulty does not mean it should not be supported, institutionally and research-wise- if anything else, it is another reason why it should be consciously pursued and supported! At the moment, problem-driven research dealing with interdisciplinary issues that are directly political, yet stir away from the typical realist, military or security issues that dominate political science and international studies, are very much marginalised in every possible way (try finding a postdoc in peace education, or try to imagine how I felt when my university's library cut off subscription to the one journal that explicitly dealt with peace education!).
Some people hear of peace education and imagine this kind of dovish, utopian and naive concept, more of an aspiration rather than a burning issue in need of theoretical development and empirical analysis. Others, treat this topic as one that should be left for women to research, while the men deal with the more important, hard military and security issues. This is therefore, an attempt not only to promote peace education as a praxis, but to extend its impact and strengthen its value as an academic interdisciplinary area of expertise. It is an effort if you will, to bridge the gap between politics and (history) education in the academic field of conflict-resolution.
Of course this gap is not merely down to gendered networking, prejudiced or closed academic departments. There are many reasons why peace education has only recently started to occupy its own legitimate discursive space in academia. Now don't get me wrong here; I am not saying that peace education is a new concept, but it is only over the past two decades, and in particular post-9/11, that it has gained prominence in academic departments, and is now being taught as a university course, alas, in only a handful of departments. One of the reasons for this delay, comes down to what I call an 'endogenous factor'. Peace education, has historically evolved as a rather abstract and ambiguous topic. It is then, no surprise that it has become somewhat of an umbrella topic, covering so many broad and diverse themes, meaning so many different things to different people, and used in different contexts (pedagogical, civil society, academic), that it has backfired, causing it to lose its robustness and hence, usefulness. Ambiguity, of course, can also leave rather dangerous openings for misinterpretation, and abuse rather than proper use.
What is its 'proper use' then? Is there such a thing as using peace education in a 'proper' manner? Should we have peace education in the first place? What is peace education? Who decides what it is, and more importantly perhaps, who decides if it becomes a possibility, a reality? If it does materialise, then who decides which forms should it take? And is it limited to formal educational endeavours, such as the school space, or should it/does it include adult education, and wider, societal, informal learning environments? What is its relationship with social justice? Is there a direct relationship between peace education and the media? Is peace journalism a form of peace education, or vice versa? How does religion feature in peace education efforts across the globe? Is there any relationship between faith and peace education, and if yes, how can this be harnessed to promote the goals of peace?
These and many other related issues will be discussed in this online space. Ironically, at a closer look, what seems to some to be a rather blindly optimistic or naive topic, emerges as one of the most hotly contested topics in countries which have experienced conflict. History of conflicts is contested, sensitive, even sacred for some. Teaching these contested conflicts, then, becomes an issue of debate, not only between the two opposing communities, but within each community itself. This online space- itself another form of community, a meta-community-is an opportunity to contribute constructively to this debate, to enrich, enliven and advance it.
Now, what about you? What brought you here? Are you interested in peace education? Are you a student, a researcher, a practitioner, passionate about peace, or even all of the above? I would love to hear from you. This is my first blog post, so please accept my apologies for the rough state of this site.