“Peace education has been worked without asking students neither teachers how they understand peace”

Interview with Ariel Sanchez, author of “Knowledges of the War: Memory and Intergenerational Understandings of Conflict in Colombia”

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By Marcela Ramos

How education might contribute towards processes like peacebuilding? How education can promote knowledge and skills to build a culture of peace and non-violence? These questions highlight some of the challenges set by the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in times where the role of education in the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence commands widespread global attention. Within that context, to know and understand some of the key features of the research undertaken by Ariel Sanchez in Colombia is particularly illuminative.

In his book “Los saberes de la guerra: Memoria y conocimiento intergeneracional del conflicto en Colombia” (Knowledges of the War: Memory and Intergenerational Understandings of Conflict in Colombia) (2017), Sanchez approaches the topic of peace building from two interesting and unexpected angles: the experience of conflict and the voices, reflections and memories of young people from different parts of Colombia. He engaged with students from private and public schools, girls, boys and mixed schools, urban and rural schools, mestizos and indigenous, who grew up within a context of an internal armed conflict, which lasted over 40 years. “Their voices were recorded through their responses of questionnaires (…) The questionnaire allowing anonymity to provide answers that I don’t think they would be able to give face to face”, explained Sanchez. Among the unexpected findings was that Pablo Escobar, leader of Medellin Cartel, the most violent organization involved in narco-trafficking, was mentioned by youngsters as one of their favourite Colombian historical figures.

-What do you think when you realise how alive is the image of Pablo Escobar?

-Escobar is a ghost you cannot get rid of. Maybe if it comes back once and again, instead of running away from that image, what we need to do is to incorporate it into the institutional educational dynamics, to avoid that image being reproduced exclusively by the media in the way the media does.

-Among the aims of the book is to present how young people in Colombia understand their country’s past, present and future. Why is it important to put the focus on young people?

-Peace education has been implemented without asking students or teachers how they understand peace. (The aim was) to listen to the new generations to hear how they perceive themselves and others and create a proper initial diagnosis before assuming what we have inherited supposedly as a conflict (…) Those claiming to work and talk about peace and peace education did not even bother to listen to the new generation before setting a whole framework and defining whatever peace should look like and whatever peace should be wanted by the new generation. Finally, is about acknowledging them also as producers of knowledge, historical agents.

-Another interesting feature of the research is the role assigned to memory…

-This is a project of recognition of a constant unending process of reviewing our history and the way meaning is produced around that history; it’s also a way of making a transformative action story from different angles, on the assumption that memory is actually a generative epistemic process. In this way, the construction of memory is understood as a constant process, without any ultimate version. Thus conceived, memory can be understood as a mechanism of reconciliation.

“Education has a key role in peace education but this role it’s not straightforward”

 

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By Marcela Ramos

Dr Hilary Cremin, University of Cambridge, was one of the keynote speakers at the BAICE-CIRE 20th Anniversary Symposium on Sustainability, Peace and Education, that took place at the School of Education, University of Bristol. Dr Cremin researches, writes and teaches about peace education and conflict transformation in schools and communities. In this interview, Dr Cremin reflects on the different meanings peace has and the value of acknowledging it while thinking of peace building as an alternative to imposing peace. Within this paradigm shift, “education has a key role but this role it’s not straightforward”, highlights Dr Cremin.

-In your presentation, you stressed the idea of building but not imposing peace. Why is this distinction relevant? Why is it meaningful to think about peace in different ways?

-I think different parts of the world have developed their own traditions about peace and part of the problem is when a Western idea of peace is seen as relevant across the entire planet.

-What kind of peace is the Western one?

-Securitize, so our word peace comes from pax, which is pax Romana, the Italian root. And this word means cessation in hostilities. So in our concept of peace we have the idea that we are not fighting at the moment, but the fighting could always return. Whereas in Eastern traditions, peace is about balance and harmony, a completely different idea. So this is much more about embracing dualities. In Colombia for example, they have a particular focus on moral peace because of Catholic traditions there, so anyone working towards peace in that context would need to be aware of local cultural associations with peace and not just imposed a kind of United Nations idea on what peace is across the whole planet.

-How can we address these significant issues through education research?

-I think we have to get away from the idea that reductionism it’s a good thing. Everybody likes simple models. This is what we have with globalized markets, everything reduced to simplicity, and the world isn’t like that, and so we can’t find the solution from within that paradigm. We’ve got to get used to think about complexity.

-This is interesting because, generally speaking, as social researchers, we are looking to represent our ideas through patterns, abstract concepts…Indeed the idea is somehow to simplify the explanations in order to better disseminate our research…

-Indeed I’m very interested in the art space and bodies research methods as ways of deepening our understandings of teaching and peace education.

BAICE-CIRE 20th Anniversary Symposium on Sustainability, Peace and Education

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To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE), the Centre for Comparative and International Research in Education (CIRE) at the School of Education, University of Bristol, hosted a one-day symposium where diverse perspectives on sustainability, peace and education were presented. The symposium was very well attended, lively and intellectually challenging in nature, with participants contributing diverse disciplinary perspectives and specialist expertise. Underpinning the different sessions running throughout the day a core argument emerged that acknowledged and addressed the place and influence of complexity in both education and development.

The symposium, generously funded by BAICE, was also an occasion to re-launch CIRE as the centre builds upon past achievements to advance new multidisciplinary approaches to comparative and international research and prioritise the role of quality education in promoting sustainable and peaceful development worldwide. The event was opened by Professor Michael Crossley, President of BAICE and former Director of CIRE, Professor Qing Gu, University of Nottingham and Chair of BAICE, and Dr Angeline M  Barrett the current CIRE Director.

Being disruptive

The day’s activities began with an excellent and engaging video/Skype, Keynote Presentation delivered from Providence University in Taichung, Taiwan, by Arjen Wals, Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. According to Wals the times we now live in are characterized by high levels of complexity and uncertainty. This led to an exploration of appropriate ways of teaching and engaging learners while addressing such challenges. Professor Wals identifies four critical competences that need to be enhanced through education: learning to know, learning to critique, learning to make change and learning to care. He then introduced these as sustain-abilities, related to capabilities such as asking critical questions, reflecting upon contemporary issues from different perspectives and the development of leadership, compassion and empathy.

The idea of being disruptive, in the way street artist whose art interrupts people’s unconscious daily walks, ran throughout Wals’ presentation. In the same vein, Dr Hilary Cremin, from the University of Cambridge, who researches peace education and conflict transformation acknowledged the value of art as an open methodological attitude that could feed discussion about peace education. Based on Dietrich’s (2012) five families of peace, Cremin’s transrational peace education means a pedagogy that: develops curious, confident, wise, compassionate and knowledgeable learners; is aware that learning is always situated, contingent and relational; and enables learners to achieve wisdom through investigation, practice, reflection, and integrates body, mind, heart and spirit.

The afternoon Keynote, delivered by Professor Leon Tikly, drew upon his research in Rwanda and addressed the relationship between unsustainable development, inequalities and postcolonial conditions. Here it was argued that to play a key role and not be complicit in reproducing inequality, education systems need to expand the capabilities of all learners and so become inclusive, relevant and democratic. He highlighted the agency of teachers, learners, policy makers, parents and researchers in achieving this.

Interactive sessions throughout the day

Four main themes were addressed during the interactive break-out sessions led by speakers from different parts of the world. Within the ‘Education, inequalities and sustainability’ theme, Daniel Capistrano (visiting research fellow at the University of Bristol from National Institute for Educational Research and Studies (INEP), Brazil) presented work on the silences associated with equity indicators. Dr Keith Holmes (Programme Specialist in Unesco) analysed the policy implications of a ‘lifelong learning’ approach to the development of inclusive and equitable education systems; and Professor Sheila Trahar and Dr. Sue Timmis, University of Bristol, reflected on the early lessons emerging from their collaborative research on Southern African rural students’ journeys through higher education.

Key issues relating to sustainable peace were explored through presentations on research undertaken in Colombia (Ariel Sanchez Meertens, Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliacion, Bogota) and South Africa (Abigail Branford, University of Oxford). New insights on how peace education could be addressed theoretically and methodologically were considered by Stephanie Bengtsson (Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Human Capital, Vienna), Basma Hajir (University of Cambridge), Elisabeth Maber (University of Cambridge), Goya Vasquez Wilson (University of Bristol) and Lindsey Horner (Bath Spa University). Paul Vare (University of Gloucestershire) also drew upon an EU-funded project that developed a framework to enhance twelve competences for sustainable development across the next generation of educators.

The significance of dialogue

The final plenary took the form of an interactive and engaging panel discussion based around questions inspired by the day and raised by participants. In a closing word of thanks, Professor Lalage Bown, University of Glasgow, reflected upon more than 30 years’ experience in adult education in Africa and UK. She emphasised one of the key messages of the day: the significance of dialogue. Looking ahead she asked how we can generate more interaction between those working in peace education and education for a sustainable development; how community education could build stronger bonds with lifelong learning that takes place beyond the school classroom; and how conversations between different fields, themes and spaces can be promoted within the multidisciplinary field of comparative and international education.

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CIRE Event: ‘Children’s literature and its role in learning about conflict and peace’

By Dr Bernardita Munoz Chereau 

On Tuesday the 12 of September, 2017, the one-day workshop facilitated by Dr Bernardita Munoz Chereau and Dr Julia Paulson, entitled ‘Children’s literature and its role in learning about conflict and peace’ took place at the School of Education, University of Bristol.

Funding from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law International Development Group enabled us to invite leading speakers and provide refreshments for participants, which allowed the exploration of ideas and discussions into the ways in which children’s literature might be used to foster teaching and learning about conflict and peace.

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In the current context — where the record levels of people are forced to flee their homes, the refugee crisis and the threat recent polarisation and terror attacks pose — the challenge of how to learn about conflict and peace in the school system, has reach a critical momentum. The workshop took an interdisciplinary approach to reflect on the role that children’s literature can play when tacking these issues in the educational setting.

The Workshop was introduced by Julia Paulson, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of CIRE, SoE, who provided the context of research and practice around education, conflict and peace. Julia argued that although causes and legacies of political conflict permeate the educational experiences of young people living in post-conflict countries, conflict is not always recognized, nor its teaching supported by formal curriculum. She also recognized that in the conflict and peace education field, there is a lack of research focusing on children’s literature, and the need for taking an interdisciplinary approach.

Then Lorna Smith, Senior lecturer, SoE, organized a debate regarding whether 15 children’s and young adults books (such as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies and Macbeth), according to the audience and contrasted with the in Key stage 3 and Key Stage 4 English Curriculum, should or should not be read by children in schools.

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Lorna Smith, Senior lecturer, SoE, leading a small group within the workshop

We moved next to the representation of conflict in Children’s literature. Dr Blanka Grzegorczyk, Teaching Associate, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, drawing on a forthcoming book to be published in 2018 by Routledge, focused on the ways in which contemporary British Young Adult’s books (such as The Boy from Aleepo, Welcome to Nowhere and The Jungle) are representing Terror and Counter-Terror in Contemporary British Children’s Literature.

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Dr Blanka Grzegorczyk, Teaching Associate, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

The following presentation delivered by Dr Bernardita Munoz Chereau, Post Doctoral Fellow, SoE focused on 6 contemporary children books that represent the Chilean dictatorship for a Chilean and international audience. Drawing on a 2017 paper published in Children’s books in Education journal titled “Representations of Dictatorship on Contemporary Chilean Children’s Literature” and recently submitted work, Bernardita argued that the authors’ positionality in terms of nationality, voice and context of production of the books were critical to take into account when understanding differences in which children characters are depict within the narratives and the way in which the dictatorship is represented for a young audience.

In the afternoon perspectives and possibilities were explored by putting together two presentations that dealt with the role of fiction as a tool for enhancing research epistemologies and memory work. Dr Goya Wilson Vasquez, Research Associate, Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies Department, School of Modern Languages, draw on her 2017 award winning doctoral thesis LASA/Oxfam America 2017 Martin Diskin Dissertation ‘Troubling (the) Testimonio: The borderlands of collective memory work—Writing a narrative inquiry with the HIJXS de Perú Group’ Awarded by the Latin American Studies Association.

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Dr Goya Wilson, Research Associate, Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies Department, UoB

Finally, Dr Bernardita Munoz Chereau closed the workshop by sharing with the audience her experience of life in a dictatorship and the process of writing the award-winning IBBY-Chile Colibrí honourable mention 2017 Noelia’s Diary – her latest children book recently published in Chile, which deals with her experience of growing under Pinochet’s dictatorship, as well as the ways in which academic inquiry helped her overcoming censorship.

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Dr Bernardita Munoz-Chereau, Senior Research Associate, SoE

The fund obtained was vital for nurturing and enhancing the visibility of a new niche of interdisciplinary research that is emerging at the SoE around children’s literature and its role when learning about conflict and peace, as well as to build new collaborative networks across academics from different centers, departments, faculties and UK universities (UoB, Cambridge and IoE-UCL) in the fields of Peace Education, English Curriculum, Qualitative Methodologies and Literature.

CIRE at Conferences Part 1: UKFIET

In the past month, CIRE members have been active at conferences around the UK. This post is the first in a series that details recent conference presentations and publications.

Learning and Teaching for Sustainable Development

CIRE at the UKFIET International Conference on Education and Development, University of Oxford, 5-7 September

by Angeline M. Barrett, CIRE Director

CIRE was well-represented at the 11th UKFIET Conference on Education and Development, on the theme Learning and Teaching for Sustainable Development.  In total four staff and three students presented papers in sub-themes on Pedagogies for Sustainable Development, Enabling Teachers and Rethinking Curriculum, reflecting new and longstanding streams of research within CIRE.

Pedagogies for peace and sustainable development goes bananas

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Julia Paulson and Angeline Barrett joined with James Lawrie of the Save the Children, to convene the subtheme on Pedagogies for Sustainable Development. Julia herself presented with Lizzi Milligan, University of Bath, on a review of history textbook analysis in post-conflict settings. The review found that very little research had gone beyond content analysis to ask questions about how textbooks were commissioned, produced and used in classrooms. Angeline’s paper co-presented with Prof. Kalafunja Osaki, St. Augustine’s University of Tanzania, however, did address the authorship and design of bilingual science textbooks created by teacher educators and curriculum developers in Tanzania.  The presentation questioned whether targeting formal scientific language in just one language was sufficient to address sustainable development within multilingual societies. Kalafunja’s examples of the knowledge of 15 species of banana, preserved within his mother-tongue memorably illustrated the argument. David Bainton, a CIRE Research Fellow, presented his own reflections on the Language Supportive Teaching and Textbooks in Tanzania project, applying an epistemological justice framing to evaluate its bilingual pedagogies.

Enabling teachers: Continuous Professional Development, voice and wellbeing

Faizulizami Osmin and Leanne Cameron presented on very different forms of continuous professional development for teachers. Enabling Teachers subtheme. Faizulizami’s paper titled, Empowering Teachers through Self-Initiated Continuing Professional Development: A New Vision for Teacher Professional Development in Malaysia presented a critical analysis of the formulation and reception of a formal, centrally imposed policy on teachers. The analysis identified conflicts and tensions between how the policy was conceptualised by its authors as promoting autonomous responsibility for professional development; and how it was experienced, interpreted and implemented by practicing teachers as a top-down coercive initiative. This paper won a competitive grant from the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE), which sponsored Faizulizami’s attendance at the conference. Leanne’s paper, Sustainable Continuous Professional Development? Considering models from East and Central African Teacher Associations, problematised the apparent autonomous professionalism associated with teacher associates. Drawing on data on Language Teacher Associations it highlighted the support and influence of external international sponsors, in particular US Department of State and British Council. The paper highlighted the different organisation of associations and their potential to foster sustained continuous professional development initiated by members, who are practicing teachers.

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Faizulizami, Angeline and Leanne at UKFIET

In the same theme, Tigist Grieve, a postdoctoral fellow, presented Teachers’ Voice: Essentials for Pursuit of Sustainable Development in Teaching and Learning in rural Ethiopia. Her findings from ethnographic research in Ethiopia highlighted the professional and wellbeing concerns of teachers posted to rural schools. Drawing on her ongoing ESRC-GCRF research, Tigist stressed the materiality of voice, and argued, given the emphasis on inclusivity and learning in which teachers are imagined as ‘transformative agents’, their voice, agency and wellbeing must be part of the scholarly debate and key consideration for policy makers.

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Tigist’s presentation

 

Rethinking the curriculum at Higher Education

Amy Walsh, a Masters student, presented on a Bristol Student Union sustainability project, Get Green, in her paper Learn Act Engage Create: A four-step approach to engage higher education students in sustainability. The project aimed to challenge staff’s and students’ attitudes to sustainability through a holistic approach to teaching and learning, which spanned the formal, informal and sublimal curriculum. It aimed to involve students engaging with ESD through the formal curriculum and then extending this to social action outside of their course. Her quick fire paper was presented in the subtheme Beyond Literacy and Numeracy: Rethinking the Curriculum.

New BAICE President: Michael Crossley

Also at the Conference, Prof. Michael Crossley was announced as the next BAICE President. For more on this see the School of Education news story. We look forward to hearing Michael’s Presidential Address at next year’s BAICE Conference, in York.

Publications related to this blog

Barrett, A. M. (2017): Making secondary education relevant for all: reflections on science education in an expanding sub-sector, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2017.1343127

Barrett, A.M. & Bainton, D. (2016) (2016) Re-interpreting relevant learning: an evaluative framework for secondary education in a global language, Comparative Education, 52:3, 392-407, DOI: 10.1080/03050068.2016.1185271

Paulson, J. (2017). From truth to textbook: the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, educational resources and the challenges of teaching about recent conflict. In M. J. Bellino, & J. H. Williams (Eds.), (Re)constructing memory: education, identity, and conflict. (pp. 291-311). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Paulson, J. (2015). ‘Whether and how?’ History education about recent and ongoing conflict: A review of research. Journal on Education in Emergencies, 1(1), 7-37.

Peace through education: An interview with Dr Teame Mebrahtu

CIRE recently celebrated the launch of the book Long Way from Adi Ghehad: Journey of an Asylum Seeker: Dr Teame Mebrahtu written by Stan Hazell. The book focuses on the life and work of Dr Teame Mehbratu, whose career as a member of staff and later, Advisor to International Students and faculty member, had a profound impact on the Graduate School of Education in his research, teaching, and counselling career. He kindly sat for an interview in July 2017 to discuss some aspects of the book and his research and teaching career.

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Dr Mebrahtu (centre) at the launch. Also pictured (from left) Dave Brockington, Dr Roger White, Teblez Mebrahtu, Dr Teame Mebrahtu, Prof. Michael Crossley, Anne Crossley, and Prof. Malcolm Johnson.

CIRE Blog: The book details your life’s journey from Eritrea to Bristol. How did your early years influence the direction of your academic life? 

TM: When I started school at the age of seven, formal schooling, even at the elementary level (grade 1 to 4), was not compulsory. Now, more than six decades later, formal education still remains a privilege rather than a right for many school-aged children in Eritrea.

As the eldest child in my family, going to school was a great joy and privilege for me. Mastering the 3R’s gave me the opportunity to read the weekly newspaper of the time and a few basic Tigrinya books that my father bought for me. This in turn opened new opportunities for me to broaden my understanding of countries and situations outside of my own and enriched my desire for general knowledge. It also made me more competitive in my studies; I was always among the top ten of students throughout my academic career. Moreover, for reasons which I still do not understand, I have always been either appointed by teachers or elected by my classmates to be a class monitor. Thus, it is fair to conclude that my early appetite for learning, my competitiveness, and my sense of responsibility as a trusted class representative helped to shape the trajectory of my life and later career.

Another experience which greatly affected the direction of my future academic life was the interruption of my senior secondary education due to student strikes. These strikes, which led to the arrest of many students including myself, were fuelled by the creation of a dysfunctional federation between Eritrea which was then a “Democracy” and Ethiopia, then an “Autocracy”.

What advice would you give to early career researchers and PhD students interested in issues of immigrant communities, refugees, and migrants in the UK? 

Broadly speaking, I would like PhD students interested in issues of immigrant communities, refugees, and migrants in the UK to take heed of the following four observations. First, knowing some members of immigrant communities in one’s home town is not a sufficient condition for writing a dissertation on them. One needs to go further to broaden and deepen his/her understanding of what the “push and pull”  factors behind their migration were and, equally importantly,  how these groups or peoples lived, thought and worked, by walking in their own moccasins. Second, there is the need to realise that “migration” is as old as humanity itself and that it is not necessarily negative, as tends to be portrayed by the media in the Global North. Third, there is a need to undertake extensive research into all aspects of education and well-being of migrants and refugee communities, as well as their offspring, in the UK. Such a comprehensive study needs to be quantitative and qualitative in nature as well as multi-dimensional in its orientation.

Finally, PhD students need to be aware of the danger of compartmentalisation of study areas. These days, we have too many specialised areas that do not necessarily communicate with each other. This begs for “pruning”, which in itself presupposes intimate understanding of the boundaries and the interface between say, Global Education, Refugee Studies, Migration Studies, and Intercultural Education, to mention but a few.

What would you describe as your most significant or valued accomplishments during your time at the University of Bristol? 

This is a complex question which requires detailed treatment of the relevance of the book. It is also worth-noting that it would be presumptive of me to pinpoint what my accomplishments are or might be. Instead, what I prefer to do is share with the reader some of the experiences I enjoyed which I believe had some impact on my performance as a Bristol University educator.

One of these is getting the opportunity and the experience of caring for all the national and international postgraduate students under my charge. This manifested itself in treating them with the respect they deserve but also in taking action to meet their respective needs in as much as possible. For instance, allowing my office to be used as a prayer room by my Muslim students in the fasting month of Ramadan and also convincing the University authorities of the need to build feet washing basins for them in order to perform their “salat” – the prayers that fell in the time between lectures. This theme reinforced by my ability to first learn and then teach others how to learn “to live  with a difference”, is discussed fully in the book chapter on “The Role of an Advisor to International Students”. Briefly, the theme implies the need to learn how to live unselfishly and how to serve others by being there for them when they needed you most.

A second area of accomplishment which was widely spoken about by both teachers and academics within Bristol was the project I ran on promoting international understanding through education.  The primary aim of this Rowntree-sponsored project was to tackle certain intended and unintended biases held by the pupils in 100 Avon and Somerset schools about the developing world in general and Africa in particular. This project, among others, entailed discussing their pre-conceptions with them and encouraging them to create contacts and exchange of ideas between them and some refugee pupils in schools in Sudan.

A third area which gave me great satisfaction whilst serving the University was the immense effort and sacrifice I made to build bridges between my alma mater in my second home, the UK, and the Ministry of Education in my country of birth, Eritrea. The Bristol-Eritrea Link Programme which was sponsored by the Danish Organisation DANIDA, resulted in the production of 1 PhD and 48 M.Ed. degree-holding Eritreans on-site in Bristol and in the professional upgrading of 250 School Directors, Supervisors and District Education Officers over a period of three, in-service summers in Eritrea. Designing these tailor-made inservice modules and teaching and running them in Asmara were by no means easy tasks. The professional and financial benefits of this Link Programme, which lasted for about a decade,  were also of immense significance to the University of Bristol. Another area of activity recognised by many national and international educators as an accomplishment were the four International Conferences I organised on topical professional issues.

Finally, what would you like the audience to take away from reading about your life and work? 

It is not for me to suggest what readers would take away from reading about my life and work. This is because the book blends aspects of culture, religion, history, politics, economics and education (which in turn is broken down to multicultural, refugee, and global education) whilst narrating my life journey. Of these, different readers may find some aspects more relevant to their needs and interests than others. Broadly, the book demonstrates how the lives of individuals are or can be affected when they move from the local to the national and global spheres of life. It also provides a vision of hope and action for the future of humanity. Given this, I would like to invite readers to reflect more on the following five concepts and practices.

The first pertains to my “global vision”. In the book, I am described as a “global educator” and a “dreamer”. My dream is to see a world where justice, fairness, and equality prevail for all members of the Human race. A related dream is to see a “reconciled world” – one where the powerful and technologically-advanced “North” is reconciled with its weaker, poorer, and more populated counterpart, the “South”. A third area worth reflecting upon is my conviction in the power of education and its key roles in individual, social, national, and global developments. Such  a conviction (one that has earned me the nickname of an “Education Evangelist”), I believe, will help all educators to make a difference in a world of indifference. A fourth is my suggestion that we can use education to achieve peace at individual, national, and global levels. This perspective of cultivating peace in people’s hearts and minds through education is in direct contrast to the old Roman maxim which argues that the way to peace is “through war”. Finally, I would like readers to reflect on my perception that life becomes more meaningful when one leads a life of purpose. This is best understood when each one of us decides to become more connected with humanity through our thoughts and actions, one of which could be lifting others as we climb up. 

The book can be found online and will soon be featured in the University of Bristol library. 

The Politics of Affect: an interview with Dr Audrey Reeves

medium-246537On Thursday 2 March, CIRE members enjoyed a talk by Dr Audrey Reeves from the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) here at Bristol. Audrey shared with us her recent doctoral research exploring the politics of affect in the context of education for peace and conflict at the Pearl Harbor museums and memorials. Through a visual journey around the Pearl Harbor site, we were introduced to the increasing link between war museums and the wider tourism industry and consumerism. In particular, Audrey honed in on the idea of affect referring to the response of our bodies to stimuli, prior to any conscious or subjective reaction; emotion is a more conscious reaction that we display and can be put into words. Through the careful design of visitor sites, affect is therefore promoted in order to encourage or repress consumption. The Contemplation Circle at Pearl Harbor looks out across the water and contain the names of all Americans who died in the 1941 attack. The design reinforces the belief that this was a grievable event, with presumably innocent lives lost in an illegitimate attack at home from a foreign place (Japan) and dictates a quiet, sombre response. On the other hand, other areas are colourful and fun in design, reinforcing the idea of just wars, American force and protection; being uplifted means that people are more likely to buy. Audrey’s research encompassed museums in Germany, Israel and the UK as well as the USA, all of which demonstrate this principle.

Following the session, I had the opportunity to ask Audrey a bit more about her research and her journey in academia so far.

 

Laura: What drew you to studying museums?

Audrey: I was very keen to do my PhD at the intersection of feminist international studies and peace and conflict and security studies. I originally offered a completely different proposal, derived from my Masters degree, but two years into doing the research I stalled. I was finding all kinds of other things to do that were relevant to my development, like teaching, but I wasn’t doing the PhD. On the side I was doing a museum project that I had started as part of the Discourse Analysis unit I was taking with Prof Terrell Carver, one of my supervisors. I had really enjoyed writing the assignment and was told I should publish it and so I was trying to develop it further. A year or so later I realised that this had hijacked my thesis. I think at some point your interest evolves and you change as a person. I was making a bold move but I had my supervisors’ support. It did mean that my PhD was longer and that I had a tougher time at my viva.

 

How did you decide on your methodology?

I come from a Foucauldian background so discourse analysis was already what I had been doing. I think if you become proficient at doing a particular method or theory you are more likely to read the world in that particular way. When I started my PhD, discourse analysis in International Relations (IR) was still very focused on the written and spoken. Visual analysis was emerging, but I felt there was something lacking in terms of how embodied practices and bodily movement make up meaning. That was where I was going when I was looking at ‘affect’. I was lucky to have supervisors, Terrell but also Prof Jutta Weldes, who were open to me looking at things that were not traditional, yet forcing me to be rigorous in grounding my ideas in existing scholarship in other disciplines. Other people had done similar things before, I just didn’t know about it!

 

You have taken a very reflexive approach to your research…

It was difficult and involved a lot of moments of crisis in the research process, but they were productive. I am writing a piece at the moment for a volume on how to study emotions in IR (edited by Dr Maéva Clément and Dr Eric Sangar) where I am arguing for people to use autoethnography as part of their visits to sites that are experiential yet political at the same time – such as war memorials and museums. Taking one’s emotions seriously during the research process, including but not only during fieldwork as such political sites, is the means to keep one’s own assumptions in check about the object of study. We all have an emotional relationship to our object of study – we may be really enthusiastic, or may think there is something really wrong with the thing or people we study. These emotions are revealing about how we conceptualise that thing or group of people, the moral judgements we make about them and our own subjectivities, how we are positioning ourselves in discourses about the thing we study. Autoethnography is not simply about talking about your life, but using your experiences to learn and explain new things in the social world

 

What were the greatest challenges for you in your PhD?

If you are going to do fieldwork, you need to start looking early on for money, which I did not do as much as I could have. In retrospect, the nature of the project may have made this difficult anyway. Finding funding takes time and the problem was that as my project was evolving organically there was no grand plan or strategy from the start. I had to pay for a lot of it through working other jobs (such as teaching) as there was no time to apply for funding and wait for the response, which can take several months.

 

What advice do you have in balancing your own development with your PhD project?

For those of us that are looking for an academic job after a PhD the demands are really high. I was lucky with the people that surrounded me, my supervisors and senior PhD students who made it into a lecturing job, so had a good sense of what I had to do. But in terms of how to integrate it into everyday life and balance time management and priorities, that was hard. I got distracted with writing blogs, teaching, conferences and workshops. All these experiences were valuable and I don’t regret doing them – but now I’m finishing my PhD and I only have one peer-reviewed academic publication on my CV. That’s a problem as I can’t get a job with that, but I think I got distracted at times during my PhD as it felt easier to do things that have an immediate impact with instant gratification. Actually, it’s the publishable writing that counts!