Peace Studies and Peace Education

Directed by Institute for Human Sciences Visiting Researcher Gabriella Etmektsoglou and sponsored by the Biosophical Institute

At the onset of the twenty-first century, the effectiveness of the existing political, religious, educational, and other institutions in creating a state of mind that puts humanity in front of self-interest and resolves conflict in nonviolent ways has been severely questioned. The rise in genocidal violence continued after the Holocaust. Three major genocides were perpetrated between 1988 and 1995. The war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s brought home the painful truth that the era of ethnic and religious intolerance, terror and genocide, had not ended in 1945. More recently, the international community long watched things evolve in Darfur, shirking the responsibility to stop a new genocide. During the twentieth century, democide, defined as the murder of any person or people by a government, has caused the death of 262,000,000 individuals. [1] In the post-Cold War period new types of conflict (e.g., religious and ethnic warfare) and of enemies (e.g., international terrorism) and new ideas about security (national, international, as well as personal) maintain a foreign policy that still manages fear by means of defense, domination, and imposition while focusing on such processes of conflict resolution and peace-building that are considered viable and sustainable in such diverse settings as Bosnia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and Iraq. The current package of “negative theology” and “axis-of-evil” politics is no solution to the Herculean task of maintaining peace in a world of the ongoing process of globalization. Nor has it brought opportunities for constructive interconnection and dialogue between multiple models of modernity and ethics, many of which have roots outside the Western tradition and are not only manifested in the private realm.

This continuous emphasis on negative peace (the cessation of violence) has also affected peace studies. The critical edge that this discipline once managed to create as a result of pressures from student and peace movements in the aftermath of the Vietnam War has now been seriously compromised. Increasingly since the 1990s, peace studies is being co-opted by international relations. Out of the 58 graduate programs on peace studies presently offered by universities in the US, only 3 do not combine peace with conflict/war studies. [2]

Thus, in spite of the tremendous carnage of the twentieth century, peace studies has not developed into a discipline defined by approaches that emphasize the behavior of individuals, communities, and nongovernmental organizations, both in building positive peace (conditions that eliminate the causes of violence) and, more importantly, in promoting peaceful living, respect for human life, tolerance, justice, and freedom. But, as Eleanor Roosevelt eloquently contended almost 50 years ago, lasting progress is made by people, in places, and at a pace that does not appear dramatic and glamorous enough for the media or for public debate. “Universal human rights,” she wrote, begins in small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world. [3]

A workshop to be organized at Boston University in the fall of 2006 will bring together scholars who approach the subject of peace from a variety of viewpoints (e.g., spiritual, ethical, philosophical, psychological, ethnological, sociological, historical, and legal). The purpose of this meeting is threefold: to introduce and invite reflection about different approaches to the study of peace and suggest some new directions for the future debate on peace-building and peace education; to identify questions that might generate discussion among a wide audience; and to encourage cooperation among many fields of study. We believe that a multidisciplinary exploration of the subject of peace would produce a synergy yielding answers and questions vital to our contemporary context. The results of this synergy will be presented in a manner that speaks to academics, educators, policy makers, students, and a wider audience.

The workshop will be divided into two sessions. During the first session, pre-circulated short versions of possible contributions to the reader will be presented by their authors and commented upon by the other participants. The second session will offer an opportunity for a more general discussion of issues of peace-building as well as of teaching strategies across multiple disciplines. One objective of this session will be the presentation of a number of ongoing pedagogical projects whose purpose is to engage the younger generations in the attempt to critically understand and work through the problems of such experiences as the Holocaust or the war in the Balkans in the 1990s. Specifically on teaching, different approaches and instructional strategies will be discussed and useful, interactive, inquiry-based resources will be introduced.


Hossain B. Danesh

Professor Emeritus of Conflict Resolution and Psychiatry, University of Ottawa; President Emeritus, Landegg International University, Switzerland; and Founder and President, International Education for Peace Institute, Switzerland and Canada

Gabriella Etmektsoglou

Visiting Scholar, Institute for Human Sciences, Boston University

Rev. Raymond G. Helmick, SJ

Professor Emeritus of International Conflict Resolution, Boston College; Senior Associate, Program for Preventive Diplomacy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC

Tony Jenkins

Codirector, Director of Administration and Research, Peace Education Center, Teachers College of Columbia University; General Coordinator, International Institute on Peace Education

Fatos Lubonja

Editor in Chief of Pepjekja (“Endeavor“), Albania’s leading critical social/political journal; writer; and former political prisoner

Adam Martin

PhD candidate, Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality, University of California, Irvine

Jonathan Schell

Peace and Disarmament Correspondent, the Nation; Harold Willens Peace Fellow at the Nation Institute

Rosemarie Stallworth-Clark

Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, Georgia Southern University; President, American Educational Research Association Peace Education Special Interest Group

Nigel Young

Professor Emeritus of Peace Studies and Sociology, Colgate University; Editor in Chief of the Routledge International Encyclopedia on World Peace

[1] Total calculated by political scientist R. J. Rummel. Figures. Tables are available at See also his Death by Government (New Brunswick, 1994).

[2] The three programs are: the master of arts program in ethics, peace, and global affairs offered by the Department of Philosophy and the School of International Service (SIS), American University; the MA program in peace and justice studies, offered since 2002 at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego; the Master of Arts in Peace Studies, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana. An emphasis on war and conflict resolution defines the programs of the European University Center for Peace Studies, Stadtschlaining, Austria, and the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, UK.

[3] Presentation of “In Your Hands: A Guide for Community Action for the Tenth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” March 27, 1958, United Nations, New York.

Topics for Further Study

Peace as Philosophy and the Philosophy of Peace
  • Egalitarianism, republicanism, and morality without revelation: the enduring relevance of Spinoza’s philosophy.
  • Creative peace in political and metaphysical thought.
  • The philosophical Gandhian background.
  • Approaches toward a normative reconstruction of our peacemaking skills.
  • Public international law, democracy, ethical politics, and “eternal peace.”
Engaging the Past and the Present with Moral Reflection
  • Historical memory and the construction of a peace culture.
  • Pedagogy and the remembrance of historical traumas.
  • The power of images, buildings, and institutions in molding communities.
  • Analyzing the by-products of conflict, such as AIDS, disease, land mines, drugs, illegal immigration, refugees, and displacement.
  • Deconstructing “grand”, unifying narratives and reposing the question of agency.
  • Introducing an open-ended view to human history.
Global Ethics and the Ethics of Believing
  • Globalization and the challenges of “civilizational” and ethical pluralisms.
  • Reconstructing moral codes and values in secular societies.
  • The ethics of everyday life and the ethics of preventing genocide.
  • Religion as a source of violence and of peace.
  • Reinterpreting the sacred word in the twenty-first century.
  • Ethical pluralism: the role of society and the state in identifying core values.
A Shared Human Nature
  • Obligations toward strangers and ways to promote a dialogue between Islam and the West.
  • Discursive politics of difference (race, gender, class, sexuality) and their role in the construction of national identities.
  • Patriotism, nationalism, exile, and concepts of superiority or inferiority.
Respect, Sympathy, Empathy, and the Sense of Moral Identity
  • The role of ideology, culture, upbringing, events, distance, fear, and other factors in influencing our self-conception and actions.
  • Normative frameworks within which “otherness” is constructed or different categories of victims are created (e.g., “real” victims who deserve restitution and others who do not).
  • Theoretical and practical implications of research on attitudes and stereotypic perceptions of the “other”.
Aggression and the Psychological Self
  • On the pacific and aggressive nature of humankind.
  • A post-Enlightenment perception of human nature.
  • Sources of human insecurity and of ethnic and religious strife.
  • What do psychological, psychoanalytical, and ethological approaches tell us about the roots of aggression?
Nonviolent Activism, Pacifism, and Peace Movements
  • The role of nonviolent activists in modern movements for peace and social justice.
  • The civil rights, feminist, and anti-nuclear movements: successes and failures.
  • Applications of Gandhian techniques and their effect on public policy.
Modern Technology and Identity
  • If, as some scientists claim, modern technology has accentuated human beings’ propensity for conflict and cruelty, can it also be put to the service of the constructive side of human psychology? If not, how can people build up moral defenses against it?
  • Can peace make news?
The Relation of Justice and Peace
  • Is there a “just war” or any rationale for the use of violence in resolving conflict?
  • What kinds of legal responses to violence can provide accountability but avoid escalating vengeance?
  • Is reconciliation a prerequisite for a lasting peace? How can it be achieved?
  • Aiming at the ideal? Forms of achievable justice.
  • Toward a theory of forgiveness (Vladimir Jankelevitch).
Building Peace: Peace Education, Peace Pedagogy, and Peace Action
  • Conceptualizing peace in a global world and building a desire for peace.
  • Sustainable reconciliation, cooperation, moral imagination, intergroup morality, alternative security, and trust.
  • Prospects for ethical learning.
  • The role of culture and gender in grassroots peacemaking.
  • Peace education in families and communities.
  • The role of spirituality in transforming human attitudes.
  • The practice of transformative dialogue and other devices for grassroots-level peace-building.


Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy at Princeton; his books include The Ethics of Identity and In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture

Birgit Brock-Utne, Institute for Educational Research; author of Whose Education for All? Recolonizing the African Mind (2000); she has taught for several years a course on peace education and the media at the European University of Peace in Stadschlaining, Austria

Carolyn Dean, Professor of Cultural History, Brown University; author of The Fragility of Empathy after the Holocaust

Jonathan Glover, Director of the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics, School of Law, Kings College, London; author of Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century (1999) and Causing Death and Saving Lives (1990)

Vicent Martínez Guzmán, Department of Philosophy and Sociology, University of Juame I; Director of the UNESCO Chair of the Philosophy for Peace

Ian Harris, Professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Community Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; coauthor, together with Marry Lee Morrison, of Peace Education (2003)

Barbara Krahé, Professor of Psychology, University of Potsdam; author of The Social Psychology of Aggression (2001)

Martha Minow, Professor of Law, Harvard University; author of, among other works, Breaking the Cycles of Hatred: Memory, Law, and Repair (2002) and Imagine Coexistence: Restoring Humanity After Violent Ethnic Conflict (2003); she is a member of the Facing History and Ourselves National Board of Scholars

Nigel Young, Professor Emeritus of Peace Studies and of Sociology, Colgate University; coauthor, together with Peter Brock, of Pacifism in the Twentieth Century (1999)