Decolonising Peace and Conflict Studies

Decolonising Peace Research: New Publications

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Two significant publications in the field of Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) have been published recently.  Both have included extensive content from staff and former students from the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) at the University of Otago that establish the Centre as a leading locus for research into PACS, Peace Studies and Peace Research.

Positive Peace Quadrant

The first is the Palgrave Handbook of Positive Peace that has been referred to as an ‘unprecedented exploration of the positive peace platform’. Edited by Katerina Standish, Heather Devere, Adan Suazo and Rachel Rafferty, and published in 2 Volumes, there are chapters by scholars from Aotearoa, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Hawai’i, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Samoa, South Africa, South Korea, UK, USA and Wales. 

Heather Devere Palgrave Handbook of Positive Peace


Dr Heather Devere with two volumes of the “Palgrave Handbook of Positive Peace’

The sixty-one chapters (twenty-one by NCPACS staff and students) are structured according to a conceptual framework we have called the Positive Peace Quadrant, consisting of Non-Violence, Social Justice, Positive Relationships and Environmental Sustainability which recognizes that long-lasting peace requires more than just the end of hostilities.  Building peace in just one part of the Quadrant is also insufficient to ensure peaceful societies.  As we claim ‘[a]s long as environmental degradation, social injustice, structural and cultural violence, and negative relationships persist’ there cannot be peace.  Nonviolence is considered under the headings of personal, interpersonal, social and international nonviolence.  Social justice is categorised according to types of justice, rights and freedoms.  Environmental sustainability includes conceptual approaches and local, national, regional and international perspectives.  The concepts and practices of positive relationships complete the Quadrant.

Topics covered range widely including: allyship, children’s rights, civilian peacekeeping, climate change, collaborative practices, coloniality, conflict transformation, cooperation, Covid 19, decentralising consumption, disability rights, ecocide, empathy, equality, equity, food security, forgiveness, freedom from violence, friendship, grassroots environmentalism, Indigenous rights, liberal peace, media freedoms, peace communities, peace education, postcolonialism, reconciliation, refugee rights, relational ethics, resilience, restorative justice, transformative justice, trust, water scarcity and abundance, women’s role in peace, yoga.  It draws on multiple and diverse disciplines including anthropology, art, children’s studies, communication, conflict resolution, critical race studies, development studies, disability studies, drama, economics, education, environmental studies, ethics, gender studies, geography, history, Indigenous studies, languages, law, media studies, medicine, philosophy, politics, psychology, religion and sociology.

The Handbook of Positive Peace is being offered as a contribution to the conversations and debates about how to counter destructive conflict in our world, through connections, inclusions, and resistance.  It can be studied by serious academics, scholars, theorists, and students.  It provides models for practitioners and activists.  Or it can be dipped into for topics dear to your heart.  We all need to inform ourselves of how to be peaceful and work for peace, as we face the reality that this is a complex, long term, continuous but vital endeavour.

Decolonising Peace and Conflict Studies

The other publication, Decolonising Peace and Conflict Studies Through Indigenous Research is another initiative of PACS scholars from the University of Otago.  The editors, Kelli Te Maihāroa (Waitaha, Ngāti Rārua, Te Atiawa), Vaivaimalemalo Michael Fusi Ligaliga, and Heather Devere have worked together collaboratively for several years.  This is a follow up to a previous publication edited by Devere, Te Maihāroa and Synott, Peacebuilding and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Experiences and Strategies for the 21st Century (2017).  The highly esteemed Māori legal scholar, Moana Jackson who wrote the foreward for that book said that it offered hope ‘by highlighting the local and international efforts by Indigenous Peoples to find peace and … meaningful exercise of self-determination…’. Both Moana Jackson and John Synott passed away before this new book was published, and we acknowledge them both for their work, their knowledge, their humility, and their encouragement.

Dr Heather Devere Decolonising Peace and Conflict Studies


Dr Heather Devere with a copy of the volume ‘Decolonising Peace and Conflict Studies through indigenous Research’

This book focuses on research with, by and for Indigenous Peoples, in an effort to assist in the decolonisation of the discipline of peace and conflict studies.  As Professor Polly Walker states the discipline ‘perpetuates ontological violence, the suppression and silencing of Indigenous ways of conceptualizing and experiencing the world’. We argue that Indigenous perspectives are essential for ensuring that PACS research, teaching and learning is relevant, respectful, accurate and non-exploitative. 

Decolonising Peace and Conflict Studies highlights the contribution made to the discipline of peace and conflict studies by research undertaken by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars working in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Caribbean, Hawai’i, Mexico, Nigeria, Palestine, the United States, and West Papua.  The perspectives included are from Cherokee descendants; Hawai’i’s Indigenous peoples; the Igbo people of the Niger Delta in Nigeria; the Lumud people of Philippines; Māori and Moriori of Aotearoa; Palestinians in Israel; Samoa and the Pacifica peoples; West Papuans colonized by Indonesia; and the Ylny people from Arnheim land in Northern Australia.

The first section of the book looks at how Indigenous knowledge and practices, methodologies, methods, and epistemologies have been used to decolonize peace related research.  The second part focuses on research into peace education, the teaching and learning about and for peace that is enhanced and strengthened by incorporating Indigenous knowledge and perspectives.  Peace development and peace processes are engaged with in the third section of the book focusing on Indigenous rights, movements, and transformative justice as models for practicing peace.    

Critique from within is always difficult, and there have been challenges for those putting forward Indigenous perspectives within Western academic institutions, and in peace and conflict studies departments.  While the value of Indigenous knowledge is beginning to be appreciated as adding to the Western canon, overturning the structural and cultural violence of colonisation will require resistance, determination, perseverance, and solidarity.  Embedding Indigenous knowledge, conflict resolution, dialogue and relationship building to enable peaceful transitions requires that the field of peace and conflict studies itself needs to be decolonised so that further exploitation is not perpetrated while seeking to resolve the violence that has accompanied colonization.

If you are interested in some of these debates, if you are wanting to know about how to make a difference, if you are able to contribute to the solutions, if you are passionate about ensuring that our world is social more just, this book is a start to exploring these issues more broadly.  It is written by academics, those working and studying in universities, but it is also accessible and provides snapshots of some of the inexhaustible work in studies devoted to peace.  It’s just a start, so much more needs to written and shared. Join us in this endeavour.

In the cover: Dr. Kelli Te Maihāroa,at Mauhaea Lake Hāwea, Waitaha ancestral land.

Author: Heather

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