Prof. Krista Thomason will serve as Coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Swarthmore College during the academic year 2019-2020.
Prof. Thomason is an accomplished Associate Professor of Philosophy, who has served diligently on the Peace and Conflict Studies Committee for many years. She is wonderfully capable, and we are all certain to benefit from her leadership.
Professor Krista Thomason is an expert in moral emotions, shame and shaming, Immanuel Kant, genocide, and child soldiers. She is the author of Naked: The Dark Side of Shame and Moral Life (Oxford University Press). Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Kantian Review, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Southern Journal of Philosophy, and Philosophical Papers. She has taught courses in the Peace and Conflict Studies Program on Human Rights and Atrocity as well as Moral Philosophy and Social and Political Philosophy.
When you see Professor Thomason on campus in the fall, welcome and congratulate her. It’s going to be a great year!
Zackary Lash ’19, who graduated with a special major in peace & conflict studies, is studying Russian in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia; Carole Lee ’21, an English literature major from Vidalia, La., is studying Swahili in Arusha, Tanzania; and Anya Slepyan ’21, a history major from Lexington, Ky., is studying Russian in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Underwritten by the U.S. Department of State, the CLS Program offers “unparalleled opportunity to develop language skills and cultural fluency by a rigorous, eight-week immersive curriculum that includes language training, cultural activities, and site visits,” says Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Osman Balkan, who serves as Swarthmore faculty representative for the program.
“The CLS is one of the most prestigious and competitive language programs in the country,” adds Balkan. “It receives thousands of applications each year, and it’s a testament to the quality of our students that an institution as small as Swarthmore College has produced three CLS award winners this year.”
The program is part of a wider government effort to raise the number of American students studying and mastering foreign languages deemed critical to national security and economic prosperity, per the program website, playing “an important role in preparing students for the 21st century’s globalized workforce and increasing national competitiveness.”
Balkan, who was a resident director of the CLS Turkish program in Istanbul and Izmir, expects the Swarthmoreans “will have a wonderful, enriching experience this summer.” Their studies began in early to mid-June and will run through mid-August.
Lash, Lee, and Slepyan follow 16 Swarthmore students who have participated in the program since 2007, including Amalia Feld ’12. And that success should only grow, thanks to a recent addition to academic programming at the College.
“With the establishment of our new Global Studies minor, which offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of politics, language, and culture,” says Osman, “Swarthmore students are even better positioned to apply for the CLS.”
We are delighted to announce that Dr. Amy Kapit will join the Peace and Conflict Studies program, starting Fall 2019.
Professor Kapit will offer a range of exciting new courses:!
Humanitarianism: Education and Conflict
Afghanistan: Where Central and South Asia Meet
Senior Capstone Seminar
(Scroll down to the bottom of this post for course descriptions!)
Dr. Kapit graduated from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development with a Ph.D. in International Education in 2016. She holds a B.A. in Religion and Peace and Conflict Studies from Swarthmore College.
Dr. Kapit’s research, scholarship, and teaching focuses on the relationships between education and conflict, and on the field of education in emergencies—the provision of education as a form of humanitarian aid. Most recently, she has worked as the Research Director of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in International Education at NYU Steinhardt, where she has taught courses on Politics, Education, and Conflict and Qualitative Research Methods. As GCPEA Research Director, she has developed the organization’s research agenda related to monitoring and reporting violence committed against students, educators, and educational facilities in areas of armed conflict and political violence. She was the lead author of the report Education under Attack 2018.
During her graduate and post-graduate career, Dr. Kapit has conducted research on education in emergencies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and in Afghanistan. From 2014 to 2016, she was the Research Director of the Assessment of Learning Outcomes and Social Effects of Community-Based Education in Afghanistan. The study, led by professors at New York University and the University of California—Berkeley, examined a community-based education program being implemented by two NGOs in approximately 200 villages in Afghanistan.
In addition, Dr. Kapit has studied the origins of the global movement to protect education from attack and how that new international advocacy network has—or has not—shaped efforts to address violence, harassment, and threats against students, teachers, and educational facilities in places where these attacks occur. Specifically, she has conducted research on the humanitarian community’s efforts to protect students, teachers, and schools in the Middle East.
We look forward to having such a remarkable scholar and teacher join our program!
New courses by Prof. Amy Kapit:
PEA 072 Humanitarianism: Education and Conflict (Fall 2019, Fall 2020)
This course will introduce students to the theory and practice of humanitarianism and, specifically, the provision of education as a humanitarian intervention—what practitioners call “education in emergencies.” The course will delve into the foundations and history of humanitarianism and track how humanitarian intervention evolved over the course of the 20th century, broadening and deepening in scope. It will explore continuing debates over the appropriateness of education as a humanitarian intervention and examine what types of educational interventions are prioritized by humanitarian agencies, as well as the goals that those interventions are trying to achieve. For example, what is the relationship between education and conflict and how do education in emergencies providers intervene to alter that relationship? Students will have the opportunity to study specific examples of education in emergencies programming in countries such as Afghanistan, Colombia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and Syria, and to hear from guest speakers working in the field of education in emergencies. The course will encourage students to apply what they have learned to policy-oriented exercises.
PEAC 052 Afghanistan: Where Central and South Asia Meet (Fall 2019, Fall 2020)
This course examines conflict, politics, culture, and daily life in present day Afghanistan. Occupying a historic crossroads in Asia, Afghanistan is a place of regional, ethnic, and cultural diversity. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, internal and external actors, including the British Empire, Pashtun dynasties, the Soviet Union, the Taliban, the United States and its allies, and the Islamic State, have battled for control of Afghanistan. Today, as conflict continues, the international community exerts significant influence on Afghanistan’s politics, security, economy, and social institutions. This course will explore themes related to conflict, peacemaking, statebuilding, and international intervention, and their intersection with cultural and ethnic diversity, religion, gender norms, and the lived experiences of Afghan people. Students will read memoirs, literature, and scholarly work from various disciplines.
PEAC 022 Peace Education (Spring 2020, Spring 2021)
In this introductory course, students will explore the historical, ethical, and theoretical foundations of peace education, a subfield of peace and conflict studies. Students will consider different approaches towards peace education: should peace education be oriented towards eliminating physical violence? Facilitating co-existence and understanding? Teaching human rights or citizenship? Empowering the dispossessed and eliminating inequality and injustice? Is peace education best integrated in the existing schooling system, an extracurricular activity, or should it be distinct from schooling? Using case studies, students will critically examine different types of peace education and explore existing research on how they do—or do not—work.
Peace and Conflict Studies Professor Lee Smithey Explores the Use of Repression—and How It Can Backfire
Lee Smithey, associate professor of peace & conflict studies and sociology, is a co-editor and contributor to a new book, The Paradox of Repression and Nonviolent Movements (Syracuse University Press, 2018), that offers an in-depth exploration of the use of repression in political arenas and its unintended effect of sometimes fanning the flames of nonviolent resistance.
“The concept of backfire, or the paradox of repression, is widely understood to be fundamental to strategic nonviolent action, but it has not been fully investigated. It was work that needed to be done,” says Smithey, who in addition to writing and teaching about nonviolent resistance has also participated in peaceful protests. “Power is not only about repression but also about building public support.”
The book, edited by Smithey and Lester Kurtz, a George Mason University sociology professor, is meant as a tool for scholars and activists to understand how repression works, as well as to study significant incidents when nonviolent activists took measures to help make repression a defining moment. For example: “When authorities are seen as attacking or disrespecting widely shared symbols, they may mobilize people in defense of shared collective identities,” write Smithey and Kurtz.
The editors first wrote about the topic in 1999, but organizing for the new book began in 2009—bringing together diverse, global contributors to study how repression can energize nonviolent movements and how nonviolent activists have worked to manage repression in their favor. It includes the grassroots efforts of nonviolent resistance such as Women of Zimbabwe Arise, who bravely joined forces as “mothers of the nation” to stand against dictator Robert Mugabe.
As they planned the book, Smithey and Kurtz organized a two-day writing retreat for the contributors to help build an integrated approach to the project. “It was intellectually exciting,” Smithey says. “We were committed early on to making this book a collaboration between academics and practitioners.”
One practice the book’s authors explore is called repression management—enacted by withstanding or avoiding repression or by creating scenarios in which repression against nonviolent activists would more likely elicit a sense of public outrage (and ultimately support).
One example, Smithey says, is the now-iconic photo of Ieshia Evans, who stood stoically in a flowing dress and faced a line of law enforcement officers in riot gear as she protested the shooting death of Alton Sterling. The photo, taken in downtown Baton Rouge, La., on July 9, 2016, quickly became a cultural touchstone.
The Paradox of Repression and Nonviolent Movements also examines the psychological costs for agents of repression, elites’ attempts to avoid triggering the paradox of repression, repression of online activism, and the work of overcoming fear.
“Repression is an attempt to demobilize nonviolent movements by sowing fear,” Smithey says, “but activists can work together to overcome fear and continue to mobilize.”
For her Lang Opportunity Scholarship project over the summer, Ferial Berjawi ’19 designed and ran the BetterFly Camp, a six-week program that brought 30 young refugee girls in Lebanon together to discuss body image, legal rights, gender-based violence, and sexual and reproductive health.
The program, which Berjawi discussed with the Arabic news source FutureTV and on Journal Post, targeted Syrian and Palestinian refugee girls in Lebanon between ages 10 and 15. It emerged from Berjawi’s personal experiences and motives.
“I’ve always found myself surrounded by broken women who never received sufficient awareness to determine their own paths,” says the economics and peace & conflict studies special major from Beirut. “I developed the program to empower these girls to become the pioneers of change in their societies.”
Berjawi took a research-based approach to the program and used an array of innovative methods piloted by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like the Danish Refugee Council and the Women’s Refugee Commission. The Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility, which awarded Berjawi the scholarship, lauded her project as a great example of the impact that students can have around the world through engaged scholarship.
Back at Swarthmore this fall, Berjawi discussed her experiences with and vision for the BetterFly Camp.
How would you describe the work you did this summer with the BetterFly Camp?
Basically, it was a series of psychosocial support sessions that had to do with early marriage, gender-based violence, positive body image–also legal rights, discrimination, power, and positionality. It was just basically addressing the different layers of these girls’ identities and helping them start thinking about who they are and who they want to be in the future. All of them have witnessed [gender-based violence]. All of them have seen it, or might have experienced it. That’s not their fault. They’re not to blame. They’re only the victims, even though they are victims with a lot of agency. So we made sure we were not taking that agency away from them. They should be allowed to find their own agency, look within themselves, and find their own power to rise above social constraint and determine their own paths for the future. So it was more inspiration and empowerment than it was about knowledge.
How did the idea for the project originate?
I grew up with everything that is going on. Just growing up and seeing it, living under the patriarchy, I experienced the sexism, the misogyny, the objectification, the dehumanization of women all the time. So that was part of it. But I never really knew how bad it was until I did an internship with the Danish Refugee Council the summer after my sophomore year. There, I worked closely with the gender-based violence program coordinator [on a large-scale empowerment/education program]. So I thought, “How about I do a similar initiative, but with a different approach?” I thought it would be more effective so the girls could open us up to even more, since it was a smaller group.
What was the Lang Center’s role in the project?
I got the Lang Opportunity Scholarship in December of my sophomore year, and they basically funded my internship that summer with the Danish Refugee Council. I don’t think I would have been able to do it otherwise. They’ve been there, backing me up, all the way. My context is very particular to Lebanon, and even though it may not be their area of expertise, bridging our knowledge together, we were able to make it work.
Is there anything that news excerpts or blurbs tend to miss when describing the big picture of your project? Moments or details that get left out?
There are little victory moments when you’re like, “Yes! This is working!” The final celebration is one example of that. We had our sessions and at the end, I was like, “You know what, girls? Let’s have a final celebration where you present something.” I thought it’d just be an hour. They’d come, they’d get their certificates, and that’d be it. But they wanted to perform. So in a matter of three weeks, we were able to choreograph a dance—two dances, actually—and a play. The parents loved it. After the celebration, they came up to me thanking me for the project. And the girls—five of them were crying their eyes out, so I just started crying, too. It’s one of those moments that are very genuine and very real. I learned more from them than they learned from me, I think.
What are your future plans—for the project or yourself?
Someone actually reached out to me from an American NGO. The director learned about my work from social media, and they want to do another project cycle over winter break. They’re completely funding a new cycle, and I’m going to partner with them on it. And for the future, I’m looking into social impact consulting and nonprofit work. Last summer was super rewarding, but you can do all these interventions and do all this nonprofit work, but their lives will ultimately be shaped by the socioeconomic and political circumstances that they live in. So I want to be working on a more policy level to change the framework itself.