Academic journal article Global Media Journal

On Nourishing Peace: The Performativity of Activism through the Nobel Peace Prize

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

On Nourishing Peace: The Performativity of Activism through the Nobel Peace Prize

Article excerpt


The Nobel Peace Prize as a global media spectacle centered in Northern Europe is not without controversy. What we hope to accomplish in this essay is two fold: first, to advance the concept of "nourishing peace", which we define as a process that combines both negative peace and positive peace; and second, to use the theoretical framework woven from Turner's social drama, Conquergood's dialogical performance, and Appadurai's five scapes and global disjunctive flows to engage students in unpacking the Nobel Peace Prize critically, including the recent award of the prize to American President Barak Obama. Our critical analysis notes a few trends over the years of awarding Nobel Peace Prizes: awards framed traditionally from the point of negative peace often went to white men occupying positions of power in the West; and awards framed from the point of positive peace narrowly and nourishing peace broadly opened up more space for women and men of color and organizations that promoted human rights and well beings. The harbinger of this glaring elision in Nobel ideology is the missing Peace Laureate, Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was nominated five times but never became a Laureate in his lifetime. Marking yet another trend, the recent award to President Obama was not for a "completed action", but rather for a future oriented nourishing peace, i.e., the publicly stated goal of nuclear disarmament and bringing about potentially a peaceful future. As teachers, we are encouraged to draw on Obama's "call to action" and use the Nobel Peace Prize as a means of inspiring obtainable local action, so that each "aha moment" in students' deep learning can become a turning point for critical consciousness and an impetus for meaningful peace activism both locally and globally.

Keywords: Nobel Peace Prize, nourishing peace, positive peace, negative peace, social drama, performative dialogue, five scapes, global disjunctive flows, Barack Obama, women Nobel Peace Laureates, Neda, peace movements, "aha moment" pedagogy, performative activism

In pursuit of nourishing peace

Peace is a term that one may associate with the end of military threats and active warfare, the end of political oppression, or the end of hunger, subjugation, and slavery. The recent awarding of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, as an example, reflects this increasingly complex understanding of peace in the contemporary global context. The desire for peace brings to mind, currently among other diverse situations, the domestic and global carnage of the George W. Bush era's "war on terror", the cyclical threat of nuclear weapons in North Korea, the popular uprisings during the presidential election in Iran, and the orphaned children of the blood diamond industry. Writing in Los Angeles, we as co-authors are mindful of our labor in the center of an empire in transition, an empire on its way to a twisted decline if the Obama administration fails to make significant differences in American and global politics. In the aftermath of Bush political and economic disaster and the dawning of the Obama pragmatism, we ask: What would constitute an ethical and persuasive mode of advocacy for "peace" in the eyes of American youth living in one of the most diverse metropolises in the world, Los Angeles? How can we recognize which notions of peace may resonate with a youthful population in an urban environment? Are these notions of peace ones that resonate outside of local knowledge? Can peace itself be created both inside and outside of a local environment?

The Nobel Peace Prize and nourishing peace

Advocacy for peace as emanated from local impulses onto a global scale is best crystallized, in a pedagogical sense, through the Nobel Peace Prize. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize is a ritual moment performed on a global stage to recognize monumental work often spanning decades of "peace". The ritual assumes noteworthiness around the globe, henceforth, a spectacular symbolic power, the granting of which singles out certain positive evolution and change in the humanity for praise while leaving other often equally meritorious acts unrecognized. …

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