In 1958, an intrepid crew of (mainly) Quakers attempted to sail the small ship the “Golden Rule” to the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, to try to “get in the way” of massive nuclear tests the United States was planning there. They were arrested in Honolulu, but they left a lasting legacy connecting peace and environmental justice concerns. Now, a new crew from Veterans for Peace is using the same ship to campaign against the MAD-ness [Mutually Assured Destruction] of nuclear weapons. Read more about the campaign in the Global Nonviolent Action Database at Swarthmore College.
The Golden Rule, a 34-foot wooden ketch, will visit the Delaware Valley May 9-14, 2023 as part of a 15-month voyage around the eastern half of the USA, making 100 ports-of-call.
Title: Iraq Afterwar(d)s: Epistemic Violence and Collateral Damage Speaker: Sinan Antoon, Iraqi novelist and poet. Date & Time : April 25th, Tuesday, 4:30 – 6:30 pm Location: KohlbergScheuer Room *This event is open to the public.
This talk will address the genealogy of the destruction of Iraq and its ongoing effects. While most accounts begin in 2003, the talk will trace it back to the first Gulf War of 1991 and throughout the economic sanctions (1990-2003). In addition to material destruction, the talk will discuss the epistemic violence of U.S wars and its effects on knowledge production in and about Iraq.
Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist, translator, and scholar. He was born and raised in Baghdad where he finished a B.A in English at Baghdad University in 1990. He left for the United States after the 1991 Gulf War. He earned a doctorate in Arabic literature from Harvard in 2006. He has published two collections of poetry and five novels. His most recent wok is The Book of Collateral Damage. Sinan returned to his native Baghdad in 2003 to co-produce and co-direct a documentary film about Iraq under occupation entitled About Baghdad. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, Guardian, al-Jazeera and various Arabic-language outlets. His scholarly works include a book on the pre-modern poet, Ibn al-Hajjaj, and articles on Sa`di Youssef, Sargon Boulus, and Mahmoud Darwish. He is an Associate Professor at New York University and co-founder and co-editor of Jadaliyya.
Sponsored by: the Arabic Section of MLL, the Islamic Studies Program, the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility, the Department of Peace & Conflict Studies, and the Department of Sociology & Anthropology.
Title: The Living Dead or the Sonic Story of Male Bodies Behind Bars in Egypt Speaker: Dr. Maria Frederika Malmström, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Research Fellow; The Aga Khan University, London Date & Time : April 19th, Wednesday, 4:30 pm Location: Kohlberg Hall 228
This talk tells a story of the aftermath of the ‘failed revolution’ in Egypt through the prism of sound and gendered political prisoner bodies. It created embodied reactions among Cairene men—years after their lived prison experiences—in which depression, sorrow, stress, paranoia, rage, or painful body memories are prevalent. Affect theory shows how sonic vibrations—important stimuli within everyday experience, with a unique power to induce strong affective states—mediate consciousness, including heightened states of attention and anxiety. Sound, or the lack thereof, stimulates, disorients, transforms, and controls. The sound of life is transformed into the sound of death; the desire to disappear in order not to disappear again produces ‘ghost bodies’ alienated from the ‘new Egypt’, but from the family and the self too.
Nora Sweeney ’24 is a Peace and Conflict Honors Major student at Swarthmore College, who studied abroad in Northern Ireland during the fall semester of 2022. The Peace and Conflict Studies department has invited Nora to an interview to share her experience studying abroad and provide suggestions to future study abroad students.
Question: Before we get into all the details, can you briefly share your overall experience studying abroad?
Sure! My name is Nora, and I am a junior at Swarthmore College. I am an Honors Major in Peace and Conflict Studies and an Honors Minor in Sociology and Anthropology. I spent last fall in Northern Ireland, a country with historical legacies of conflict.
I knew I wanted to study abroad at some point. It was high on my radar when I got to college because when else will you get to spend three months somewhere without logistical stress? After two years at Swarthmore (one during the height of the pandemic), it felt like a good time to take a break and have a couple of months to figure out the world.
The idea to go abroad last fall came from a couple of factors. The spring before my study abroad program, I took a class with Professor Smithey called Transforming Intractable Conflict, which focused on intense ethnopolitical conflicts that are long-standing and hard to resolve. As a major in the Peace and Conflict Studies program, this was the first time I’d learned about applied conflict resolution initiatives and attempts. The case study focused on the North of Ireland, which is where Professor Smithey’s research is and also where my mom grew up. It felt serendipitous that these could align, so I started to seek programs in Northern Ireland.
I found a program about democracy and social change in the North, which felt perfect. I had this big plan to participate in this great program and have concentrated education about peace in a country grappling with the legacies of conflict. I was quite sad to find out that the organization that runs the program folded after COVID financial concerns, but by then, I was set on getting to Northern Ireland. I ended up doing a direct enrollment program at Queen’s University Belfast, which was a phenomenal experience despite not being a focused program on conflict.
Question: What did you do on the first-day post-arrival? What were some of the most exciting experiences during your journeyinNorthern Ireland?
I left the United States on September 10th and got to Belfast on the 11th. It was crazy timing because the Queen had died on September 8th. So I got there on September 11th, slept, and tried to adjust to the time difference. The next day I had my program orientation, where they condensed everything we needed to know about studying abroad into a couple hours. It was supposed to be a multi-day event, but they canceled everything else because the country was meant to be in mourning because of the Queen.
The next day, Tuesday, September 13th, was the new King’s coronation tour. My “big introduction” to Belfast was also the empire’s “big introduction” to a new monarch! I lived with Americans also studying abroad, so we walked from our accommodation to the city center, which was beautiful (and my first actual glimpse of the center of Belfast). Then we wandered, parked ourselves on the curb by a barricade, and watched King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla come down waving in their car. It was a bizarre (but very cool) way to get introduced to the country.
Something that struck me was how I had learned so much about Belfast in my previous studies, but I still went into it not knowing how it would feel. I have learned most about conflict and how the city is still segregated between Protestants and Catholics, like how there are solid walls between communities. I knew that rationally, but I didn’t know how I would feel actually being there. When I talk to people, they say Belfast has changed a lot in the last 20 years. And it’s just people doing their regular routines— I hadn’t expected to not really feel conflict as in my daily life. I felt much safer in Belfast than walking down the street in the United States, and I think that has to do a lot in part with gun regulation policies.
It might be a bit cliché, but learning and feeling a city was the most exciting part. Belfast is a pretty small city. It’s the capital of Northern Ireland, but it’s still relatively small in size and population. During my time there, I didn’t have a cohort. I was mainly just doing my own thing! I was one of 24,000 students at the University, and no one knew me unless I went up and introduced myself to them. There were some interesting cultural differences— for example, participation isn’t required, nor is attendance in most classes. Sometimes I was the only one in class, which was very different from what I’m used to at Swarthmore.
It was nice just to be able to figure out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be in a place where no one knew me nor would remember me once I left. It was very different from how I’ve experienced Swarthmore, where you know everyone or recognize most people on campus. Having the study abroad experience made me appreciate the Swarthmore community even more.
Question: What does peace mean to you, and how has that study abroad experience reinforced or changed that perception?
I went into Northern Ireland knowing they have this legacy of conflict that they are still grappling with in tangible and much more subversive ways.
Essentially, in Northern Ireland right now, there are two central communities, Catholics and Protestants. Where the Catholics tend to identify with the Irish Republic, the Protestant identity is more associated with the British State. And so one of the major things I was learning was that it is much more nuanced; your religion will no longer necessarily predict your political ideology. It was genuinely fascinating to go into that place and experience those nuances with a new understanding of what efforts are being made about conflict because so much has been attempted in the last two decades.
The biggest lesson I learned is that it is not terribly different from the United States. Northern Ireland is much more homogeneous and racially similar, and it’s got two prominent religions, but they’re both Christian religions. When you untangle it, some threads will still be the same. I think there are some important lessons to be learned from how we apply [ourselves] to conflict and conflict resolution that I did not realize could even be used in a U.S. context, but as it turns out, some aspects of conflict resolution can appear even across oceans. The concept of “peace” is intentionally vague because it is inherently not one-size-fits-all, but there can be schemas for how we approach resolutions. I think what I’m getting at is that in the United States, we tend to think of major conflicts happening “over there,” even though this country still experiences immense conflict. Communities are not always as different as they may seem on the surface, and I think we could learn some things from the commitment to finding a resolution that so many actors in the North of Ireland share.
Question: Any advice for future Swatties that are planning to study abroad?
I really recommend going abroad. Apart from the immense fun, I needed to go somewhere because, rationally, we know that the world is bigger than Swarthmore. When I got to the University, people asked where I went to school, and I would reply, “Swarthmore.” They would usually respond they had never heard of it. It was nice to be reminded in a physical, tangible way that there is more out there than just Swarthmore. My most extensive advice is to go and try these new experiences before the four years fly past.
Registration for the fall semester 2023 is coming up soon, so check out these exciting courses by our outstanding faculty! Flyers with course descriptions for PEAC courses are provided below. Check them out!
Pizza, salad, and beverages will be provided! This event is open to the public.
“The Art of Un-War is an in-depth exploration of the life and work of renowned artist Krzysztof Wodiczko. The film features Wodiczko’s artistic interventions that he creates as powerful responses to the inequities and horrors of war and injustice. Throughout the film, the artist’s powerful interventions become examples of how art can be used for social change and for healing.”
The Art of Un-War With Director Maria Niro March 22 (Wed), 4:30 PM Singer Hall Room 033 Swarthmore College
Come watch the film (with pizza, salad, and drinks) and stay for the special discussion with Director Maria Niro.
Co-sponsors: Peace and Conflict Studies, Art, Film and Media Studies, Lang Center, Music, Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology, Spanish
The Peace and Conflict Studies Film Series features five films that explore the evolution of militarism; the role of art and personal narratives in overcoming violence, trauma, and conflict; and the potential for building justice through different means.
Vanessa Meng ’20, a Peace and Conflict Studies and Philosophy double major and Swarthmore alumni, recently received the PJSA 2020 Best Undergrad Thesis award. Her thesis focused on China’s own narrative of China-Africa relations and tied in the diverse cultural background she shares in her identity. The Peace and Conflict Studies department has invited Vanessa to an interview to share her experience and insights surrounding her thesis and study at Swarthmore College.
“I am someone who has always been sensitive to injustice, and I had a lot of questions about what peace really is. Before college, I thought I would be in the NGO or international development world. Now my understanding of peaceful impact has changed. The Peace and Conflict Studies Department at Swarthmore helped answer many of my questions.
In “The Cost of Living,” Roy has this essay that Talks about how we are really done with the time of the big, and I think she is exceptionally correct. When doing my China-Africa relations research, I realized the problem is with big projects like SAPs. The real shift now is in the relations really lies in the cultural and the people-to-people exchange.
I definitely think my understanding of what peace means has changed significantly in my time in college and now, but the root of it remained the same because I believe there is larger injustice and conflicts that affect the more personal. I am also in a master’s program in Psychology and now look at internal peace. Everyone deserves to feel peace, which has a lot to do with injustices.“
Question: In your thesis, you mentioned the diverse cultural background of your upbringing. How did the intersecting cultural identities affect you on different levels and motivate you to pursue a Peace and Conflict Studies degree at Swarthmore?
That was a crucial question that I looked at in college. On a very personal and emotional level, it was a struggle for a while. There was a moment [when I was] so frustrated that I felt that my education was colonized, and there was this deep frustration that emerged upon realizing how my parents worked super hard all their lives so that I could be far away from them in a way, not just like from physically far, but also culturally and even linguistically and emotionally.
In terms of why it motivated me to pursue Peace and Conflict Studies, it lies in the fact that we’re products of our time. Our parents’ generation grew up understanding the power dynamics of the world. But things are shifting, and I think as things are shifting, there’s also a lot of tension, as we see with Taiwan and Hong Kong and Mainland China. Many conflicts arise out of these tensions, and it seems almost ridiculous to me, considering how many people have families across borders and culturally share striking similarities. My identity comes from all these places where tensions lie, prompting me to delve deep into questions like what it means to find peace. Not just internationally but also in a way reflected in me, something that I need to look for.
Question: What is the biggest spark that motivated you to focus on China-Africa relations in your thesis?
It’s an amusing story. When I stumbled upon China-Africa relations, I did not think about how related it is to myself until afterward. These were kind of two separate things that ended up being significantly related. In my freshman summer, I did two internships. One of them was with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Beijing. I initially thought the Foundation based in Beijing would primarily focus on Chinese situations, but most of my work in the Foundation was geared toward China and Africa relations. That brought my first insight into the topic. Then I was introduced to Irene Sun to become an assistant on her book on China-Africa relations and transcribed interviews that involved Chinese and African workers. By the end of my freshman year, I had gathered much firsthand information on the topic.
As my career in Swarthmore went on, I was exposed to ideas like colonialism. It just dawned on me how ironic that, in the media, China is portrayed as the colonizer of Africa when (a) it comes from the Western media, the original colonizer, and (b) China has always been communist. They were the ones who were very much part of the Third Worldism idea and movement in the 50s. This is something that I was very intrigued by and later became very personal.
Question:Any memorable resonances between life and majoring in PEAC?
I was one of those lucky students who came to Swarthmore knowing I wanted to study Peace and Conflict studies. In my freshman year, I took Intro to Peace and Conflict, and the book list was quite interesting. One of the books was “Half the Sky,” using Mao’s quote, “Women hold up half the sky. It is again one of those things that I did not realize how influential it is until now. The book talks about a bunch of women’s organizations worldwide, and one of them was [the organization] New Light. This was a direct thing: I found New Light very inspirational. So, I emailed them, got Lang Center Summer Funding, and went there for an internship. I was quite naïve, thinking of everything I would take part in. However, I felt disheartened knowing I was not equipped to do any of those things and had no language skills. At the same time, I was very motivated to understand and help as much as I could, which ended up being with kids of women in the red light district. In the end, I started a poetry workshop for three girls; that was my first experience teaching poetry, and now I teach poetry. This was an experience that was literally made possible by the intro peace and conflict studies course and the booklist.
Question: What stood out to you during your research?
This is hard to choose. I remember one night I was at McCabe [Library] and pulled out a very obscure document, it was like a CIA report of the Bandung Conference, and it was about the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization (AAPSO). I was just so struck (a) by the intelligence of the CIA. They know everything happening at the conference, and (b) by how deep the connection ran. The Bandung Conference was pivotal, and the person representing China at the time was extremely radical. It was radical in the sense that they were connecting with Black Americans and Indigenous people in America, and they advocated for solidarity to combat Western imperialism. In fact, I ended my thesis with this idea: that China’s dream is closer to the radical left in America. If we look at Angela Davis or Grace Lee Boggs, activists who were communists and part of the Civil Rights Movement and Black movements, the ideas are quite aligned.
Question: What was your initial reaction after learning that you were awarded the PJSA Best Undergraduate Thesis in 2020?
To be honest, I was really shocked. I was met with a lot of countering voices during my research. I remember clearly opening the email. It was in 2020, a time that was not looking so good. It was a low point in my life. So hearing this was exciting because I felt a little more hopeful then.
Question: Can you elaborate on the line: “I bring the knowledge that a true education is liberating to the self.” mentioned in your Commencement speech in 2020?
I want to preface this by saying that some people think of academics as separate from themselves, as an intriguing exploration isolated from oneself. When I was thinking about this, I believed that the purpose of education is not preparing you for a job but rather gears you to understand your position in the world and what that means. I think tying to the previous question, what was problematic in navigating multiple identities, was not knowing where I belonged. In Swarthmore, I could think hard about my identity and situate myself in the world.
Question: How did Swarthmore and Peace and Conflict shape your current life trajectory?
When I first set foot in college, I was much more ambitious. Peace was a big, flashy thing. There was something international and vague about it. After Swarthmore, I was heavily influenced by Arundhati Roy’s work, “The Cost of Living.” I also used her idea of the pandemic in my Commencement speech. In “The Cost of Living,” Roy has this essay that talks about how we are really done with the time of the big, and I think she is exceptionally correct. When doing my China-Africa relations research, I realized the problem is with big projects. The real beauty in the relations really lies in the cultural and the people-to-people exchange: The fact that there are Chinese moms and dads selling flip-flops in rural Nigeria. To me, these organic interactions are really the key to peace.
Also, with the pandemic, COVID-19 is like this tiny germ, but it stopped the world for a second. I think it metaphorically shows us that it is the time of the small now. Arundhati Roy had this excellent line, “Maybe there is a God of small things that is looking down.”
Question: What would it be if you were to leave a line to “little you ” before she came to Swarthmore?
My life now is entirely different than I expected when I first came to Swarthmore. I am in a master’s program in Psychology, teaching poetry, piano, and yoga. My past self would be so shocked right now. But if I could tell her one thing, it would be “to be kinder to yourself and to others, but mostly to yourself.”
We are excited to be a co-sponsor of this event featuring Dr. Juan Masullo, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University. Read more about the event below, and we hope to see you there.
REFUSING TO COOPERATE WITH ARMED GROUPS: Civilian Agency and Nonviolent Resistance in the Colombian Civil War Thursday, 1 December 2022 4.15-5.30 pm, Science Center 199 Swarthmore College (directions)
How do communities living amidst violence activate their agency and organize nonviolent resistance to protect themselves from armed groups’ violence and rule? In this talk, Dr. Masullo will explore the conditions that led ordinary and unarmed civilians in Colombia to collectively refuse to cooperate with heavily armed groups.
Juan Masullois an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University. He is also a co-editor of Qualitative & Multi-Method Research, the biannual publication of APSA’s Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Section, and associate editor of the International Studies Review.
Sponsored by the Department of Political Science, Latin American and Latino Studies, and the Peace and Conflict Studies Department.
Billy Wu ’26 is an international freshman who recently joined the Swarthmore community this fall semester. He is a prospective Sociology major and a Peace & Conflict Studies and/or Film & Media Studies minor. Billy will join the Peace & Conflict Studies Department as a student departmental assistant for Fall Semester 2022 and Spring Semester 2023.
“As an international student who interacted with different cultural backgrounds, identities, and societal structures throughout my life, I am intrigued by the connections of the social ingredients that we see in our everyday lives and how they fuel the people we are and what we perceive. Peace & Conflict Studies is a brand new field for me to explore. Still, its resonance and relevance to ourselves shed light on its significance in enlightening us to navigate a world where both peace and conflicts follow one another. “
“Applying for the student departmental assistant position was an arbitrary, or more precisely, a split-second decision. As a student deeply interested in the connections between social sciences and media studies, this was a fantastic opportunity to apply my skills in media platforms and learn from the experience itself. Being a freshman at Swarthmore, I see myself in the position to engage other students who might not be familiar with Peace & Conflict Studies, just like I did before enrolling in PEAC 030 War in Lived Experience with Professor Mike Wilson Becerril this semester. I seek to use innovative ways to provide first-hand information about our department and facilitate interests based on discussions and interactions. So look out for some trendy moves in our department!”
“So whenever you have something on your mind about how our world functions or have random questions about the department you want to ask, you know who to find (ME!). Apart from being an enthusiast in Peace & Conflict Studies, I also enjoy cooking and (for the most part) eating delicious cuisines from everywhere in the world. Therefore, I am always open to anyone looking forward to chatting over a dorm-cooked dinner. I love trying out new things: dancing, journalism, weird social experiments, etc. (as long as you do them with me); message me whenever something pops up on your mind.”
The goal of this project is to help the granting organization, the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH), to develop a methodology for tracking and analyzing the suppression of university student activism, including through acts that violate student activists’ rights. The project will support SAIH’s advocacy and campaigning to raise awareness of the role that students play as defenders of human rights and to increase protections for them. Kapit will work with student research assistants to carry out data collection to develop an initial methodology, code book, and preliminary set of indicators that SAIH can use to produce an annual Student Rights Watch Report.
“This is a really important and really neglected area of work,” says Kapit. “Many people who become human rights defenders become involved in activism as students. If student activists aren’t protected and the space for student activism isn’t allowed to flourish, that’s likely to also suppress future activism. What I’ve found so far through the research is that there’s a big gap in attention to student activists. Groups that support protections for human rights defenders don’t specifically focus on students. And groups that focus on issues like academic freedom tend to be more focused on the work of academics, rather than on students. I’m also really excited to be working with students here at Swarthmore on this project. This project is about students, and I feel strongly that it needs to be shaped by student perspectives.”