by Mel Rohse
To start with, I just want to say that I don’t intend here to do a survey of what topics have been researched so far or may be researched under the name of Peace Studies. A good start for anyone interested in this would be to look at Alger (2000). Rather, I want to reflect on what Peace Studies is and its status as an academic discipline and try and identify some questions that may be important to consider for peace researchers.
Since March, a group of students in the Peace Studies department (Uni. Of Bradford) has been meeting to discuss issues around peace research methodology, if indeed there is such a thing. We found ourselves grappling with a very wide range of issues but a question that keeps coming up is: What is Peace? How do we define it? We must acknowledge that there has been a range of definitions, often contradictory, throughout history. So can we ever agree on a definition? I don’t know. And the words of Andrew Murray in his introduction to the special issue of Peace Review on the future of Peace Studies seem to go with this idea too. He writes conversations and debates amongst peace researchers tend to come to the same conclusion, “that in the context of Peace Studies it is not possible to articulate a focus or to identify a methodology beyond the generic ‘to make a better world by whatever method or methodology is appropriate.’” (Murray, 2002)
I’m actually not sure that the question of giving a definition of peace for everyone to agree on is the most relevant. Rather, I believe that the crucial thing is to have these debates about what peace means and these conversations to unpack our individual understandings of peace. In that sense, “what is peace?” becomes a guiding question for a journey, an exploration of what peace might be that peace researchers should engage in as a community. I think it is an important task for peace scholars to take on as it is part of defining one’s identity as such scholar. A peace researcher should be able to account for how his/her research contributes to peace and an exploration of what peace might be can only precede this.
Another thing that has struck me in my conversations with colleagues is the debate surrounding the normative objective of Peace Studies. When reading Adam Curle and James O’Connell inaugural lectures to the Peace Studies department (at Bradford), they both seem to make the assumption that there is an agreement on the normative project of Peace Studies. Indeed, compared to other discipline, Peace Studies is distinctive in its claim of being both academic and practical. This is very much reflected in the mission statement of the department of Peace Studies:
We combine empirical, theoretical and applied research with sustained engagement at international, regional, national and local levels to analyse, prevent and resolve conflicts and develop peaceful societies. We aim for an enabling environment for international research excellence involving diverse and critical approaches.
Peace Studies is rooted in academia but clearly has an objective of going beyond academia to promote a peaceful society. Again, I strongly believe that it is necessary for peace researchers to discuss the question of normative aim so particular to Peace Studies. There is a danger here of assuming that because we research peace we sign up to the normative objective. However, there are many ways of doing normative research and these need to be uncovered.
I know there are many other questions around what Peace Studies is but I hope this will be a good starting point for conversations. I do look forward to hearing from you guys about the points raised here…
Mel Rohse – Peace Studies Research Student
Alger, C. (2000) Challenges for Peace Researcher and Peace Builders in the Twenty-First Century. International Journal of Peace Studies 5(1)
Murray (2002) Introduction to the Special Issue: ‘The Future of Peace Studies’. Peace Review, 14(1), 5-6.