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.
It is the last week of classes. Peace and Conflict Studies students (and those interested in majoring or minoring) are almost there! Of course, the exam period follows, but it is traditional for us to take a moment to catch our breath together during the reading period. You deserve it!
Let’s gather together on Monday, May 1, to catch up, enjoy some ice cream, and hopefully bask in some fine May weather. Bring a frisbee or beach ball or board game if you like. See you then! (Details below)
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.
Please join the Peace and Conflict Studies Department for its Spring 2023 Film Series. Five films will explore the evolution of militarism and the role of art and personal narratives in overcoming violence, trauma, and conflict.
All film screenings will be held at Singer 033 starting at 4:30 p.m. The screenings are followed by debrief discussions with faculty and guest debriefers. Pizza, salad, and drinks will be provided during the screenings! Open to all Trico colleges (Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore).
Below are the trailers and synopses for the films included in this Spring 2023 Peace and Conflict Studies film series.
Exterminate All the Brutes EP.3 February 15 (Wed), 4:30 PM Singer 033 Swarthmore College
“Exterminate All the Brutes, is a four-part hybrid docuseries that provides a visually arresting journey through time, into the darkest hours of humanity. Through his personal voyage, Peck deconstructs the making and masking of history, digging deep into the exploitative and genocidal aspects of European colonialism — from America to Africa and its impact on society today.”
Dawnland February 22 (Wed), 4:30 PM Singer 033 Swarthmore College
“The feature-length documentary DAWNLAND follows the TRC to contemporary Wabanaki communities to witness intimate, sacred moments of truth-telling and healing. With exclusive access to this groundbreaking process and never-before-seen footage, the film reveals the untold narrative of Indigenous child removal in the United States.”
Coexist March 1 (Wed), 4:30 PM Singer 033 Swarthmore College
“In Coexist, Rwanda’s unprecedented social experiment in government-mandated reconciliation is revealed for the first time through the eyes of a diverse range of survivors: victims, perpetrators, and those who bore witness to the 1994 genocide. What they share is breathtaking, heartbreaking, and inspired.”
500 Years March 15 (Wed), 4:30 PM Singer 033 Swarthmore College
“500 Years tells the epic story that led Guatemala to a tipping point in their history from the genocide trial of former dictator General Rios Montt to the popular movement that toppled sitting President Otto Perez Molina. Focusing on universal themes of justice, racism, power and corruption, 500 Years tells the story from the perspective of the majority indigenous Mayan population, and their struggles in their country’s growing fight against impunity.”
The Art of Un-War With Director Maria Niro March 22 (Wed), 4:30 PM Singer Hall Room 033 Swarthmore College
“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.”
Come watch the films (with pizza, salad, and drinks) and stay for discussions.
It is with great pleasure and anticipation that we share that Dr. Sa’ed Atshan will return to the faculty of Swarthmore College and that he will serve as Chair of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies in the fall semester. We are so excited that future generations of students will benefit from his exceptional teaching and mentoring.
Dr. Atshan (Swarthmore ’06), a renowned anthropologist and peace and conflict studies scholar, has extensive teaching experience at institutions including Birzeit, Brown, Emory, MIT, Swarthmore, Tufts, and UC Berkeley.
He joined our program in 2015 and contributed mightily to its development as a department. His popular classes included the introductory course; Crisis Resolution in the Middle East; Gender, Sexuality, and Social Change; Humanitarianism; and more. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict course included five consecutive and transformational embedded study trips to Israel/Palestine, not to mention a related and well-attended annual film series. He also co-organized a large conference on resisting anti-Semitism with Rabbi Michael Ramberg, Swarthmore’s Jewish Advisor.
Dr. Atshan returns to us from the Anthropology Department at Emory University, where he is a tenured professor and the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies. His reputation as a beloved mentor precedes him. While at Swarthmore, he not only supported prospective students, current students, and alums in their academic and vocational pursuits, he also served as the Director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program. He himself, as an undergraduate at Swarthmore, was both a Lang Scholar and the first Arab-American in the nation to receive a MMUF scholarship.
We hope you can tell why we are excited about Dr. Atshan’s rejoining our department. He brings outstanding experience in so many respects that fit seamlessly with Swarthmore’s and our department’s missions.
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.”