Academic journal article Storytelling, Self, Society

The Role of Storytelling at the Intersection of Transformative Conflict Resolution and Peace Education

Academic journal article Storytelling, Self, Society

The Role of Storytelling at the Intersection of Transformative Conflict Resolution and Peace Education

Article excerpt

I have worked as a peace educator for more than twenty-five years, teaching high school and university students, developing and writing curricula, and adminis- tering international internships and practicums. At the same time, I have served as a group conflict consultant for diverse local and national firms, mediating, facilitating, and training management teams. Over the years, I have come to realize that educating youth for peaceful global perspectives has a lot in common with helping management teams transform workplace conflicts. Mostly, I have learned this through student and participant stories I encountered in both classrooms and boardrooms. These stories revealed multiple intersections and overlapping purposes of peace education (PE) and transformational conflict resolution (TCR) and spoke to both interpersonal and global concerns. By interweaving the stories with scholarly literature, this article explores several of PE's and TCR's most compelling and symbiotic connections. Before I begin, however, I would like to note several qualifications.

First, the intent of this article is not to provide a definitive or exhaustive analysis of either peace education or transformative conflict resolution or even to recommend a particular course of action for practitioners of either. Rather, this paper acknowledges several of the two methods' common objectives and means of achieving those objectives-their intersections-that emerge and become apparent through the stories. Moreover, the stories are limited to my remembrances. Thus I do not follow up with a thoroughgoing analysis of all that they might mean, nor do I provide recommendations for practitioners of peace education or transformational conflict resolution. To attempt to do so would be presumptuous given that I am dealing, not with raw data, but rather with what I have perceived, remembered, interpreted, or believed was signified.

Second, Ryan points out that conflict transformation ideas and levels of analysis are interrelated and broad ranging (e.g., liberal or Marxist; personal, relational, or structural), and when discussing the concept, we must pay cre- dence to all perspectives. Certainly personal, relational, and structural conflicts affect one another, and different ideological standpoints affect how one sees. For example, unjust economic structures contaminate interpersonal relationships, and violent interpersonal relationships affect personhood and identity. A Marxist might focus on the former, a liberal the later. Ryan's argument notwithstanding, for the purposes of this paper, when discussing TCR I do so in the personal and relational tradition of Curle, Galtung, Bush and Folger, and Lederach.

Third, Brunk, in discussing the central precepts of peace education, differ- entiates among three ways of conceiving PE: educating about peace, educating for peace, and peace through education. Again, notwithstanding the obvious interrelatedness of these three processes, when discussing PE, my focus will be education for peace.

A Common Purpose

Transformational conflict resolution as an approach to conflict and as a topic within conflict studies arose about fifteen years ago as a reaction to the perceived stultifying objectives of the ideology of conflict management (Dukes). According to a number of peace researchers (Bush and Folger; Galtung, Peace by Peaceful Means; Lederach, Preparing for Peace), conflicts-interpersonal, intergroup, and systemic-are generally not resolved once and for all; hence processes of conflict resolution are more accurately characterized as "transformational." As Galtung says, you transform conflict so that "parties can live with them; you do not solve them" (Transcend and Transform viii).

The question is, Exactly what gets transformed, and to what does it get trans- formed? For the what, there are many offerings in the TCR literature: actors, issues, rules, and structures. Most commonly, however, the transformation is understood to relate to changes to persons, relationships, and structures (Mitch- ell). …

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