Join us online on Tuesday February 22 at 4:15 pm EST to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Peace & Conflict Studies program at Swarthmore College! The virtual event will reflect on the past three decades of peace and conflict studies at Swarthmore and the ways that program alumni have integrated peace and conflict studies to their careers.
Allison Oman Lawli, '91
Deputy Divisional for Nutritional Operations, Analysis, and Integration, World Food Programme
Maurice Weeks, '08
Co-Executive Director of the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE) Coordinator
Jasmine Rashid, '18
Director of Impact at the Candide Group
Howard M. and Charles F. Jenkins Professor Emeritus of Quaker History and Research and Former Peace & Conflict Studies Program Coordinator
Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies and Sociology and Peace & Conflict Studies Program Coordinator
We are excited to share a new course coming in Spring 2022! Professor Nanci Buiza’s will begin teaching honors seminar SPAN 103: Trauma, Afecto Y Derechos Huamnos en la Literatura Centroamericana. This course is an elaborated companion to her course PEAC 038: Civil Wars and Neoliberal Peace in Central America. We congratulate Professor Buiza on receiving a Mellon Course Development Grant to create this new course.
What’s the difference between PEAC 038 and SPAN 103?
Prof. Buiza writes, “The PEAC038 course focuses on the sociopolitical and historical causes and consequences of armed conflict in Central America (1960s-early 1990s), the transition to peace and democracy, and the implementation of neoliberal economic reforms that came with the arrival of peace in the mid 1990s. The course, however, really does not study the cultural production (literature, film, art, music) related to these decades of instability in the region. My honors seminar in Spanish will focus on the cultural production of the region and how it relates to and engages with the above mentioned sociopolitical and historical forces.
The focus will be on the Central American region, mostly the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The seminar will incorporate theory to discuss issues of ethics, social justice, and human rights in a war-torn society. It will allow students to weave together critical and theoretical concepts of peace and conflict studies that they have learned in the program and apply them to our analysis and study of how cultural representations engage with sociopolitical turmoil; how performance artists engage with issues of social justice in nonviolent ways; and how cultural production as whole invites people to think about other possibilities to violence and state repression.”
Here is the course description. We highly recommend Peace program students consider registering for SPAN 103.
This honors seminar studies contemporary Central American literature and culture with a focus on theories of trauma to discuss cultural representations of human suffering, empathy, and pain. The seminar explores the social disintegration and legacy of violence left by decades of civil wars, genocide, and revolution in the region, as well as theories of trauma, memory, affect, aesthetics, philosophical cynicism, and human rights. These theoretical approaches will help us reflect on the relation between literature and human rights; the sociopolitical upheavals and their cultural representations; and how cultural production engages with issues of peace and conflict in the neoliberal era. We will pay special attention to representations of social disaffection, political disillusionment, and survival in a postwar context shaped by socio-economic precarity. In addition to reading literary works by some of the main authors in the region, we will analyze scholarly debates surrounding Central American literature, as well as watch films and performances that probe into the issues of ethics, historical truth, social justice, reconciliation, historical memory, and the human predicament in a postwar society.
Ramiro Hernandez ’23 started his fall break off with a bang, taking part in the Harvard Kennedy School’s 2021 Public Leadership Conference earlier this month.
One of just 68 undergraduates from across the U.S. chosen, Hernandez relished the chance to build community with his fellow attendees.
“Hearing all of the projects, initiatives, and change-making that other students are pursuing at campuses across the country was inspiring,” says the honors medical anthropology, peace & conflict studies, and educational studies special major from Hidalgo, Texas, “and I found comfort in sharing a virtual space in which everyone was vulnerable enough to discuss our fears and aspirations.”
The mission of the conference is to inspire student leaders — particularly those from historically underrepresented and underserved communities — to pursue careers in public service. Participants learn what it means to study public policy in a graduate school environment and have opportunities to connect with current Harvard Kennedy School students, faculty, and staff as well as their fellow attendees
“I also really enjoyed hearing from the representatives of various public policy programs, as I learned a lot about financial aid opportunities and fellowships that I was not aware of,” Hernandez says. “I finished the weekend with the confidence that pursuing a career within the field of public policy is the path I’m meant to take.”
After missing the cut for the conference two years ago, Hernandez was nervous about opening the notification email for this year’s event. But being selected at this time proved fortuitous.
“I’ve become much more grounded in my politics, my beliefs, and the multiple truths I hold dear,” he says, “and I feel much more confident in my change-making abilities.”
A first-generation college student, Hernandez has a broad interest in public service that is grounded in his experience as a second-generation immigrant growing up in a border community in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. He is intent on using every opportunity he receives to move resources where they are most needed, ensuring that future generations have everything they need to live well in their communities.
Reflecting on the conference, Hernandez points to the excitement of “meeting 67 other folks who come from backgrounds similar to mine and are just as passionate as I am about improving the conditions of various communities around the world.”
[This blog post was reposted from the Swarthmore News and Event page and was written by Ryan Dougherty.]
On September 21st at 2:00 PM, you will hear our bell ring 21 times to mark the International Day of Peace. During the ringing, you might wish to reflect on the state and significance of peace in our world today. Additionally, we encourage you to join us on the Parrish Beach by the Clothier Bell Tower at this time. After the ringing finishes, we will hold a moment of silence, a few words will be shared on the importance of this day, and we’ll form a giant peace sign. On behalf of the Peace & Conflict Studies Program and the Lang Center, we hope to see you all there!
We would also like to highlight two events from our partner, Peace Day Philly.
Come join the Political Science Department at the Brown Bag Lunch Thursday, September 16th at 12:30pm to hear Professor Tierney give a short talk on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the international consequences. Email email@example.com to RSVP. The event will be held in Parrish Tent and lunch will be provided.
Professor of Political Science Dominic Tierney recently joined Matt Leon of KYW Newsradio to discuss the American withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict and what could’ve been done differently to prevent the resurgence of the Taliban.
Tierney argues that the rapid collapse of the Afghan government was not preordained in 2001 but had become increasingly predictable over the most recent weeks and months. Most surprising, however, seemed to be the lack of armed conflict that preceded the Taliban’s return to power.
“By and large, commanders of the Afghan army surrendered and basically negotiated deals in a process that had probably been in the works for a very long time,” Tierney tells Leon. “It speaks to the deeper issue that we have never really understood the local dynamics in Afghanistan. It may as well have been on the moon from the view of most Americans and, frankly, most D.C. politicians.”
Tierney also discusses the history of American involvement in Afghanistan since 2001 and identifies a lack of nuance in U.S. foreign policy as a potential cause for ultimate failure in Kabul.
“In 2002, the Taliban reached out to the United States and basically stated that they were willing to accept a negotiated deal,” says Tierney. “The amazing thing is that the Bush administration … didn’t even consider it. At the time, we thought the Taliban and the al-Qaeda were the same guys. They were the bad guys, and we were going to put all of them in one bucket and take them out.”
He argues that this “crusading mindset” led the U.S. to waste the leverage it had at the time and allowed the Taliban to slowly reemerge by 2006, culminating in a nationwide insurgency.
Looking ahead, Tierney believes that it will take time before one can evaluate the impact of President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw, especially as it relates to the rights of the nation’s girls and women.
“It’s very certain that there will be restrictive dress and things like that,” he says. “However, the hopeful story is that Afghanistan ends up looking like Iran: a theocracy, rather than Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale. Maybe we could see the Taliban accepting women as doctors and midwives, and allow them to have some education. Hopefully, regional powers can use their leverage to strongly pressure the Taliban to allow some rights.”
Tierney also appeared in other outlets, such as The Guardian, to discuss recent developments in Afghanistan:
Associate Professor of Philosophy Krista Thomason was recently recognized as a leading scholar by the National Humanities Center (NHC) with a 2021 residential fellowship to continue work on her second book project, Worms in the Garden: Bad Feelings in a Good Life.
The residential fellowship will allow Thomason to spend her sabbatical year at the NHC working alongside other fellows, which Thomason describes as “every scholar’s dream.” Worms in the Garden: Bad Feelings in a Good Life contemplates how one can live a good life without having to get rid of negative emotion.
“I teach moral philosophy regularly, and in that class, we use classic works in philosophy to help us think through the moral questions that we face in our everyday lives,” Thomason says of the book. “When I was thinking about how to approach this book, it hit me that I should use the same strategy that I use in the classroom. So, I draw on work from the history of philosophy to help answer the question, how do we live well with our bad feelings?”
Thomason was selected for the 35-person cohort from more than 600 applications. “When the VP of scholarly programs called me to tell me I’d been selected, he made sure to tell me that the committee thought my project was excellent philosophical scholarship with a wide appeal,” says Thomason, “which is a huge compliment.”
Robert D. Newman, president and director of the NHC, said in a statement: “We are proud to support the work of these exceptional scholars. They were selected from an extremely competitive group of applicants, and their work covers a wide gamut of fascinating topics that promises to shape thinking in their fields for years to come. I look forward to welcoming them to the center in the fall.”
The in-residence fellowship will take Thomason off the Swarthmore campus, but she doesn’t anticipate that much change in the environment.
“Being in a liberal arts college environment means you’re able to communicate what is significant or interesting about your work to people who don’t necessarily think like you do. It also means that you know how to learn from colleagues in different fields and that you value different scholarly approaches,” she says. “I’ll be with top-notch humanities scholars from a wide range of disciplines, so it’s not that different from my normal life at Swarthmore.”
The NHC is the only independent institute dedicated exclusively to advanced study in all areas of the humanities. Through its residential fellowship program, education programs, and public engagement, the NHC promotes understanding of the humanities and advocates for their foundational role in a democratic society.
[This blog post was reposted from the Swarthmore News and Event page and was written by Nora Kelly.]