Decolonising Conflicts, Security, Peace, Gender, Environment and Development in the Anthropocene
Edited by Úrsula Oswald Spring & Hans Günter Brauch
Foreword by Johan Galtung and Preface by Betty Reardon
Publication date: 2021
Price: ebook $44.99 / softcover $59.99
In this book of peer-reviewed texts prepared for the 27th Conference of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) in 2018 in Ahmedabad in India, 25 authors from the Global South (19) and the Global North (6) address conflicts, security, peace, gender, environment and development.
Four parts cover I) peace research epistemology; II) conflicts, families and vulnerable people; III) peacekeeping, peacebuilding and transitional justice; and IV) peace and education. Part I deals with peace ecology, transformative peace, peaceful societies, Gandhi’s non-violent policy and disobedient peace. Part II discusses urban climate change, climate rituals, conflicts in Kenya, the sexual abuse of girls, farmer-herder conflicts in Nigeria, wartime sexual violence facing refugees, the traditional conflict and peacemakingprocess of Kurdish tribes, Hindustani family shame, and communication with Roma. Part III analyses norms of peacekeeping, violent non-state actors in Brazil, the art of peace in Mexico, grass-roots post-conflict peacebuilding in Sulawesi, hydrodiplomacyin the Indus River Basin, the Rohingya refugee crisis, and transitional justice. Part IV assesses SDGs and peace in India, peace education in Nepal, and infrastructure-based development and peace in West Papua.
By Betty Reardon
As a feminist peace educator, I find this volume to be uniquely attuned to the peace problematic of a complex, rapidly changing world. The complexity and speed of change has increased exponentially since the papers published here were presented at the 2018 General Conference of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA). Yet, the editors have framed the volume in a manner sharply relevant to the 2020 challenges confronting all members of the peace knowledge community, researchers, educators, and activists. A global pandemic, a resurgence of the nuclear threat, intensification of authoritarianism, severe weather events, undeniable revelations of human inequality, systematic deprivation and oppression, protested throughout the world, now comprise the problematic of peace. Never have we been in so great a need of such frames as those presented by the editors, Hans Günter Brauch and Úrsula Oswald Spring.
Framed within an exposition of the origins and characteristics of the Anthropocene geological epoch, this work integrates multiple and varied issues, ranging from the quotidian to the cosmic, from the intimate and personal violence of child abuse to the global violence of the systemic, continued rape of Planet Earth. In this frame, the various issues can be seen as interrelated elements of the larger challenge of comprehensive peace. The editors enable us to view peace issues in the integrated, holistic, Earth-centred manner, so urgently needed by the whole field of peace knowledge. Each editor delineates fundamental elements of their frame. Oswald Spring presents the current problematic in a fresh perspective on the evolution of the present problematic within the Anthropocene—the geological age in which human intervention in our planet’s living systems has brought us to this existential crisis. Brauch, reviewing the stages of conceptualisation of the Anthropocene, demonstrates a “rethinking of the evolutions of peace research” in the convergence of what I would term the ecological imperative—the need to place the fate of Earth at the centre of all economic and political decisions. This frame provides a set of invaluable conceptual tools for learning to make the crucial changes essential to the survival of humanity and our planet.
The editors have, as well, shown some of the strides in defining the peace problematic that I have observed over the many decades of my association with IPRA. The IPRA of 1972, when I first attended a general conference in Gyor, Hungary, was markedly different from the association of 2018 that is represented in this volume. I see a deepening of the ever-broadening field, comprised of diverse practitioners. IPRA, half a century ago, was celebrating the establishment of relationships between European researchers from both sides of a melting Iron Curtain. Very few women, only two peace educators and virtually no researchers from the Global South were in attendance in Gyor in 1972. The gathering was far from the global association that convened in Ahmedabad in 2018. As noted in Oswald Spring’s chapter, its organisational culture was formed by European men. And, I would note, focused primarily on problems of war and weapons as research topics with little attention to educating the public about the problems.
How different from the 1972 gathering was that in 2018! The papers the editors have selected show researchers from the world over, men and women discussing a far wider variety of forms of violence as defined over the last five decades, including gender violence. For years, gender was ignored, and then resisted as irrelevant to the research on arms and conflict that dominated the programmes of the general conferences. But in the 1980s, the Peace Education Commission embraced gender issues as integral to the education realm of peace knowledge. Not until a paper presented by a Finnish peace educator was environmental violence considered within the purview of the field. Peace educators will celebrate the way that this volume places both gender and ecology at the very centre of the peace knowledge project. We see now a diversity of substance beyond even the frames of structural and cultural violence, for several decades standard features of the conceptual map of peace research.
Also to be celebrated is the posing of the peace problematic as a decolonisation process that exposes epistemological imperialism within the larger historical reality of multiple injustices of Western colonialism. Westernisation as “progress”, still a common view among Northern policy-makers, is revealed as a force that oppressed masses of the human family as it accelerated the consumption of the planet. This process perspective is projected on the large screen of history and forms the backdrop for multiple issues, illuminated in small frame focus so as to highlight the interrelationships among effects of extraction, oppression, and the cannibalisation of Earth on human lives.
The effects on human lives are the realm of the problematic that preoccupies peace educators who deal directly with those most vulnerable to these effects. Peace education strives to educate for critical capacities to prepare the deprived for resistance and liberation and aims to prepare the privileged to understand the consequences of the effects to our whole species, to develop a capacity for empathy with suffering humanity, and to take responsibility for a humanly abused planet. We seek ways to present the specificities of the human within the holism of the planetary. Hans Günter Brauch’s introduction of peace ecology, calling upon Oswald Spring’s delineation of five pillars of peace, offers us what we seek. The concept of peace ecology is a fine heuristic tool for educating the suffering for resistance and liberation, and developing in the privileged capacities for empathy and responsibility. It is a key conceptual convergence in the overall convergences revealed through the lens of the Anthropocene Epoch. I see it as an example of a holistic, comprehensive mode of thinking, an epistemology and a mindset essential for the transformative learning upon which our survival depends. Such a reconceptualisation of the peace problematic can free the field of peace knowledge from the limits of the linear, reductionist world-views of its Western origins, just as authentic and comprehensive political decolonisation could free the human family from the sexism, racism, exploitation of the vulnerable, and despoliation of the planet imposed by Euro-American, patriarchal imperialism. Such a conceptualisation is, as well, an intellectual frame for life affirming norms that could impede such reckless individualist behaviours as those that prevent containment of the COVID-19 pandemic, manifest the extractive greed that proposes to mine and further pollute the seas, and enacts the patriarchal hubris of nuclear “advancement”.
As I write this in August of 2020, I speculate on the themes and issues that will comprise an IPRA general conference a decade hence. What might the cogent research questions posed in this book have produced in data and knowledge that could enable us to transcend the planetary damage of the anthropocentric and patriarchal thinking evolved through the Anthropocene Epoch? Will papers recount how strategies were researched and enacted to resuscitate the possibility of democracy, to eliminate nuclear weapons, to establish firm benchmarks to mitigate climate change, to design non-violent security systems and just conflict resolution procedures, to move towards social equity and gender equality? Will discussions be framed so as to indicate the integral interrelationships among all these realms of peace design? Will it reflect Brauch’s call to rethink the evolution of peace research?
Oswald Spring and Brauch have given us a foundation for the research and learning that might make such a conference programme possible. As peace researchers, educators, and activists, we can build upon what they provide towards a body of peace knowledge that could contribute to the survival of the planet and the lives it sustains.
Betty A. Reardon
New York, USA