The Pasts and Futures of Peace Research
Fryer H. In conversation:
David Hostetter and Matt Meyer
Accepted: 25 February 2021 | Revised: 29 April 2021
Creighton University, Omaha, NE, USA
E- mail: HeatherFryer@creighton.edu
David Hostetter and Matt Meyer on the pasts and futures of peace research
an interview by Heather Fryer
Peace & Change is nearing fifty years as a vehicle for disseminating new research in peace history and peace studies. The Peace History Society has sponsored the journal since its founding in 1972 and it has grown and evolved through its partnerships with fellow organizations. The International Peace Research Association (IPRA) became a partner organization to Peace & Change in late 2020, expanding the journal’s community of scholars, readers, and reviewers to include more diverse disciplinary, international, and transnational perspectives. To mark this fruitful new partnership, Peace & Change editor Heather Fryer hosted a Zoom conversation between Peace History Society president David Hostetter and IPRA Secretary General Matt Meyer on the state of the field in our present historical moment. Awakened to activism by President Jimmy Carter’s call for a military draft in 1980, both Hostetter and Meyer have been deeply engaged in peace activism, scholarship, and leadership in the academic societies that have shaped the conversations in Peace & Change over many years. Here, they reflect on the past to propose next steps forward for the journal, for peace research, and for our organizations. Throughout their wide-ranging discussion is a call to resist the urge to hastily enact new post-2020 agendas and to concentrate instead on building trust— everywhere.
Heather Fryer ( P&C ): Thank you both for sitting down with me to reflect on peace history and peace research in this moment that we find ourselves in. Are the two of you meeting for the first time, or have you crossed paths before?
David Hostetter (PHS): Well back in 85 or ‘86 where we first crossed paths, I was on the staff of the Washington Peace Center and Matt was with the War Resisters League, and over the years as we've stuck with peace studies and peace history. We've bumped into each other at various events and had some contact via email about connecting peace studies and peace history so this is a decades- long conversation. Our scholarship overlaps as well; Matt’s book about Africa1. was quite useful to me in my work. So perhaps that bodes well for the coming nexus of peace studies and peace history.
Matt Meyer (IPRA): Regarding my own entrée to “peace politics,” I used to say my parents were sort of natural-b orn pacifists. They weren't activists, they weren’t organized as they weren't in any movement stuff, but I grew up with these images of the Vietnam War as a little boy and a young man and heard my parents saying “oh, war…bad!” There was a sense that war is bad, that we must do what we can personally, and that it is always possible to increase the peace— and to make peace.
When I was seventeen, then-President Jimmy Carter talked about bringing back registration for the draft, so there was now a personal connection. I was going to turn eighteen and would have to make a choice [about whether or not to register]. That is what jump- started me into checking out all of the [peace] organizations that I could find. I wrote an article for my high school student newspaper about what people were doing about the draft. I interviewed these groups called the “War Resisters League” and all that. The War Resisters League was in New York City and seemed interesting with its brand of resistance and also nonviolence. I gravitated there and became active in the early 1980s, in my late teens.
One of the World War II conscientious objectors who was an elder staff person at the War Resisters League was a guy named Igal Roodenko. He had been buddies from the old days with Kenneth Boulding and some of the other founders of what was then the main US affiliate with the International Peace Research Association: a group called COPRED, the Consortium on Peace, Research, Education and Development. I was an undergrad[uate] trying to find my way academically, and I was on the Board of the War Resisters League, when Igal said “look, we want some activists to be on our board because we don't want to just be academics. I'm getting older and tired and I can’t juggle this board and all the other stuff so why don't we put you on the COPRED board and I'll move off. You go on the COPRED board and be the token activist.”
And at that particular moment, I had spent two or three years totally in the activist world, and I was ready to take some steps back and focus on my own academic work. I had become a history major, looking especially at African history, but my particular university didn't understand what that meant. I ended up getting an undergraduate degree in “non- Western history” (and that, I think, was a concession on the part of my university who was trying to decide what could make a degree with all these courses on African history “okay”). So I was moving in that direction and Igal opened the door for me. I went on the board of COPRED and [my involvement] just snowballed from there and doesn't seem to be stopping. I had become more involved in trying to link academics and activists to deepen my own balance of those worlds in my professional work, from the War Resisters League to COPRED to what became the merger of the two main US organizations, the Peace Studies Association and COPRED, into the Peace and Justice Studies Association and then IPRA.
Heather Fryer: You entered peace scholarship through the activist portal so I have to ask: do you think of yourselves as activists or scholars or both? And how do you view this supposed “divide” between the two?
David Hostetter: Like Matt, it was Jimmy Carter and draft registration that led to engagement with my heritage, because, technically speaking, I'm an eleventh-g eneration American conscientious objector. It was the night of Carter's State of the Union [January 23, 1980] when he announced draft registration.2. I was walking by the oldest dormitory on the Juniata College campus which is modeled on the Ephrata Cloister. All of a sudden, all these pieces started coming together for me. I was taking Introduction to Peace Studies and my parents had a very specific idea of what dealing with draft registration meant because of my father's experience. My father died last month and I have been going through his file to the draft board—y ou guys will appreciate this— the Lancaster County draft board in the 1950s often used the postmark “Pray for Peace.” [Laughs]
My father was never drafted, but was in medical school in the mid-1 950s when they were talking about a doctors’ draft so he took it upon himself to make sure his claim was solid. This meant going back to church four times a year to take communion although my mother, as a General Conference Mennonite, could not take communion in a Lancaster Conference Mennonite church and had to read a book and sit in the kitchen during communion— that's why they became Presbyterians.
They had a very specific idea that there was not going to be any “refusing to register” because that was not the way. That was not the precedent in my family. As I pointed out in my Peace & Change introduction to the special issue from the PHS conference in Kansas City (2017)3. my mother's uncle, who was doing his PhD training at Harvard during World War I when he was drafted, was waved off from the train station by his seven sisters when he went to Georgia to do his alternative service, such as it was in those days. So in my family there were very few war stories because there had been very few soldiers. There was both an affirmation and a narrow focus on what one should do in the face of a draft, which was imagined to be alternative service like my relatives did in the Civilian Public Service camps during World War II.
So thanks to Jimmy Carter, I pursued this heritage and found lots of support. I had the idea as a peace studies major of being an activist and managed to get some formal slightly- paid positions in the early 1980s, which gave me a window on things that I otherwise would not have. I am always happy to hear about graduate students who return to grad school after some sort of sojourn, be it activist or vocational, because they understand the world better because they lived in it, as opposed to where a lot of us like to live, which is the library.
As far as the activist- versus- scholarship question, that has been hit- or- miss for me because when I have tried to be an activist, particularly in my graduate years, I was often reeled back into a more— to use that less-u sed word these days—“objective” position. I think what I got from that is that you dohave to look at all parties concerned.
In my recent research, I have been very interested in the sojourner Robert Pickus, who I deemed a “peace apostate” in my paper at the 2019 Peace History Society conference because he was such a committed pacifist in the 1950s and then, in the 1960s, I think there were some between-t he- lines things about why he did and did not get along with certain people in the peace movement. That needs to be teased out more, but it connects to my other recent interest in the 1976 petition to the new Vietnamese government that Jim Forest [of the Fellowship of Reconciliation] started, saying, “we helped end the war, now we don't understand what you are doing with reeducation camps” and other things they implemented. It’s fascinating to me to see who signed which of those two petitions. Jim had one petition but then Atlee Beechey, perhaps a lesser- known figure in peace movement history but someone who I knew and who was a mentor to my parents, signed the letter saying, “hey wait a minute—w e shouldn't criticize the Vietnamese government when they just got started.” He did more time in Vietnam than almost anybody else so it’s noteworthy to me that the conflicts within peace circles have often been unpredictable and sadly often haven't been resolved much better than [conflicts in] the wider world.
Heather Fryer: The rigor of academic research produces vital knowledge for understanding peace. Would you say that experience as an activist is equally vital to developing reliable knowledge in peace research?
Matt Meyer: Part of part of the thing, of course, is to not live in any of these worlds solely. I love all that David said, both because of the details in these hidden histories that are revealed by David's work, and because in both of those examples and in the examples of our own growth, this key and often lost piece— and my favorite word these days— is nuances. As researchers and historians, and academics especially, but also as organizers and activists, we have to be much more attuned to the nuances in front of us today and in the past.
I want to say here that there is an irony in the way that Jimmy Carter affected both of our lives. Part of it was the choices. There was not a choice in the 1980s or now to register as a conscientious objector. It was something one could do individually on a personal level; one could make a case themselves. Since the government argues that there is no real draft, only registration for the draft, it does not outline a process for individual consciousness. The fact that we had to develop our own choices and create our own brands of resistance that were based on the past, but not conditionally structured by it, definitely shaped the kind of activist and academic I became.
As far as “the academic- activist divide,” if you will, I prefer to push us away from divides and toward creative dynamics. We're not really looking for any of our [peace studies] organizations to be situated in one place or the other but to have a creative tension between different disciplines. In the case of International Peace Research Association, we are not all historians or economists or political scientists, so there is going to be that creative interdisciplinary conversation in any case. Adding non- academic organizers and community leaders into that conversation seems a natural and vital choice, especially when searching and re- searching for pathways to peace.
There is also an interesting, and often missing perspective of being historians, students, researchers, and scholars about the peace movement. I am more and more fascinated in my own work about writing fully nuanced and much more fully truthful, more complex histories of past movement choices and of their ebbs and flows. The versions of peace history that came from that crucial period right after the Vietnam War ended and as the Vietnamese were developing their own government have been, for example, far too often oversimplified and narrow. David mentioned earlier that I am primarily an Africanist, and I can spotlight another example from that context. Just a decade before the end of what the Vietnamese call “the American war,” the newly decolonized African governments were facing the same things as Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia had been a student of some known US pacifists, and an admirer and friend of “the dean of the US peace movement” A.J. Muste. Having been the leader of the movement against the British colonialism, Kaunda was the favorite when he ran for president of his country. As he was building a post-independence government he decided that he was going to put together an army. People were saying, “Oh, my God, Kenneth! You were one of our hopes that you would fully demilitarize and you're into nonviolence and there'd be no army!” President Kaunda begged his pacifist and peace movement colleagues to understand the nuances and not suggest that he was forced to make either/or choices between principles and realpolitik: “We have the pro-apartheid South Africans right to our south and the racist Rhodesian regime literally on our border: what are we going to do?”
There was not an easy answer. There wasn't then, there isn’t now, but looking at movement history and asking those questions about how movements of the past dealt with the more complex and thorny questions of their moment give us better, more expansive menus of choices and questions and decisions for our time.
Heather Fryer: Matt, I appreciate that your favorite word these days is “nuance” because it has been hard to find in our public conversation over the past few years. How do both of you see peace historians and peace researchers meeting the moment that we find ourselves in? Are we called to do something other than business as usual in the 2020s?
Matt Meyer: I think we are in a very special moment now. I think that the global pandemic only crystallized and intensified the specialness of that. The Latin American section of IPRA has put it most strongly in saying, “we must create a new normality.”4. We must look at the post- COVID moments that we are hoping for and moving toward. As academics, we have a responsibility to understand that the product of our work must contribute to both theory and practice. Theory is in the service of practice, as practice based on no knowledge of precedent is often ungrounded. So if peace is the goal—i f we are really looking to create a world that has more peace than the past, that has more possibility for lasting and effective justice-b ased social change, then our associations and our work have to be grounded in an analysis and understanding. It’s not that everyone has to become an activist, or that everyone has to become a peace practitioner in a traditional sense, but we have to begin to better connect the dots between the research we do and the world we want to create.
David Hostetter: one thing I was thinking in response to your various questions and points, Heather, was that The Peace History Society specifically and the broader field of peace history and peace studies is at a point where most of the founding generation are retiring or have left us. So we are left holding an uncertain torch in terms of how we continue what they did, but do new things as dictated by current circumstances. My main project of last year has been working with several other PHS members on collating and editing the Oxford Handbook of Peace History and when I went in search of a precedent, I went back twenty-f ive years in Peace & Change and they had a much more narrow focus as dictated by the times. [The central questions were] “how do we use history to address the Cold War?” and “how do we bring about peace between nations, so we don't have nuclear war?”
And with the end of the Cold War, and with that not being as salient an issue, people have gone in many different directions. If you look at the run of Diplomatic History, for example, there was a point where that journal took a cultural turn, perhaps more than Peace & Change—a s opposed to the first meetings of SHAFR (the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations) that I went to where I felt I needed a badge to enter because I didn't wear a blue blazer and a yellow tie and gray slacks. That cultural and linguistic turn in many of the humanities and social sciences has been reflected in our work in the last generation. How do we build upon it? I think critics sometimes have a fair point when they say some of [the cultural studies literature] is a little mushy. I mean, I was reading the current table of contents of American Quarterly and some of their titles for articles and reviews are very obscure. You cannot tell what they are about from reading the title.
I do think the possibilities of international exchange and interplay of ideas in the digital age are exciting, though it does mean that we are waving goodbye to a certain style— a certain epistemology. I certainly see the gap working with students who only know digital research as opposed to going to the stacks and physically dealing with rifling through twenty years of indexes.
And I think Matt's point about nuance that the precedent set by participant observer memoirs is useful, but they're going to write about what they think is important. The most recent one I read was Jim Forest; it was fascinating to get inside the head of someone who didn't come from a pacifist background but came out of the military as a conscientious objector and had contact with A.J. Muste and Dorothy Day in a way that most people didn't. So those kinds of sources are useful, but when you put them in context and historicize them you realize that they are just one person's point of view, one person's experience. It’s important, but it’s not the whole story.
Matt Meyer: We have a slew of books, a cottage industry of memoirs about the Vietnam War, but I think we still don't have a great single-v olume, encompassing socio-cultural, political- economybased history of what that war and the opposition to it was about. We have some that come close, some that are better than others (and many of those better ones have been written by leaders of the Peace History Society), but we're filled with lots of pieces and angles on the story without a good enough overview. I sometimes think that when I get into a deeper level of retirement, after the next three or four books on my to- do list are written and edited, I would like to try to bite that one off. But we grew up reading a bunch of these amazing memoirs that all bring a piece of it to us, and Jim’s is a fantastic contribution. I wish we could read one holistic book that puts these pieces together into something that makes more sense than some of what I see as less useful overviews that came out in the 1970s early 1980s, that lead to some pretty premature and incomplete pieces of the story.
There are many recent examples of the elders and some younger folk doing amazing things. It's striking that an elder like Johan Galtung, who helped develop the field as a whole, projected from his analysis of the timing of the end of the US empire that 2020 would be a watershed year. I don't think that the US empire is done and I don't think that Galtung is a soothsayer who predicted COVID-1 9, but I do think it's worth noting the shifting nature of what the US can be and will be as a superpower going forth. Whether it is in how one defines “empire,” or describes the role of the US military, or marks the fluctuations of US political and economic influence, the US will continue to shift in ways that I think will make things look very different in ten years from they have in the last fifty, or possibly one hundred years. That is both a context for our work, and a recognition that one of the last remaining living elders of our field has recently contributed these incredibly poignant, and pressing, and visionary challenges to our work.
I’ll also mention one of my mentors, a Puerto Rican academic named Luis Nieves Falcón. Nieves Falcón was a prominent scholar at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. He helped set up the Department of Latin American and Caribbean Studies there, and he was a sociologist and a lawyer and a children's book author and critic, so he was a multifaceted person. What influenced me most as I was working with him in the last decades of his life was the idea of interconnecting peace and decolonization, and looking at global questions of decolonization —n ot just for Puerto Rico but places like Western Sahara, West Papua in the Pacific, Kashmir, Palestine, and Tibet. one can go down the list of territories that are still under military occupation and find people and struggles that are so interesting, not just because we need to think about the practical, theoretical, and conceptual ways in which we become a more decolonized people globally, but also because some of those participants in those struggles are conceptualizing strategies and tactics in particularly interesting ways. Many of them have a history of armed struggle, but many of them are also coming out of that history saying that there is something about civil resistance, about nonviolence, and about peaceful practices and peaceful tactics that may get us further than our previous preconceptions about tactics. The conversations taking place in those territories are particularly exciting and Nieves Falcón helped steer me in that direction.
Reflecting on David’s comments about the how some of our previous generations’ academic work in Peace & Change was defined by the Cold War, the arms race, and nuclearism, it has been a complete pleasure to have one of IPRA’s and PJSA’s leading scholars, the head of the Peace and Conflict Department at Pace University here in New York City, Dr. Emily Welty and her husband Dr. Matthew Bolton, coming back to some of those roots by working at the United Nations on disarmament issues. They are two out of about thirty core people who created the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won a Nobel Prize [in 2017]. We saw in the past couple of months the final ratification of that Treaty at the UN level, so we still have some of our younger scholars keeping some of those anti- nuclear and disarmament issues alive in ways that are as effective as anything we did decades ago. There are a lot of different angles and spaces and ways into the current moment that hold exciting possibilities for the next generations.
David Hostetter: Well, that sparks a thought for our collaboration in the future: perhaps we need to have issues of journals dedicated to examining the legacy of Gene Sharp, which activist publications have batted about the last few years.5. I think there has been a lot of misunderstanding about what Gene was and was not responsible for. Here is my take on it: I debated Gene in 1985 and he made a provocative speech where he said, “you can take the traditional peace movement, write names down on a list and burn it, and it won't matter.” Being in the heart of the traditional peace movement at the time I took umbrage and said, “no, we are doing this and we are working to make change.” Gene’s supposition at the time was “I'm not worried about the Ellsbergs. I want to convince the people in power of the possibility of civilian-b ased defense and nonviolent action.” Scroll forward to the post- Cold War years where his ideas were disseminated in the world, and particularly in cases like Ukraine where because of US involvement with anti- Russian forces in Ukraine, all of a sudden the Korean- era conscientious objector who did jail time, the guy that was Secretary to A.J. Muste who wanted to spread the efficacy of nonviolence throughout the world, is now “a CIA agent.” Those of us who knew him, regardless of what we thought of all of his ideas, knew that this was not fair.
The question arises when you achieve some of what Gene wanted to do, which was to get a hearing from the powers that be, and the people who make decisions and governments for the application of nonviolent protest: do you somehow lose the control and the vitality and the validity of that kind of protest in action? I think I haven't seen it in one place, perhaps I've missed it, but perhaps that's something we should explore in the future— how we understand the impact of Gene’s work, and where it went well and where it didn't.
Matt Meyer: No, that’s beautiful and you haven't missed it, David. This is exactly what we're discussing in questions of nuance and pushing beyond the oversimplifications and the mythologies that are too often the result of lazy work around peace and justice. I enjoyed a relationship with Gene for some decades in part because of my own curiosity as a young activist, wondering what the heck he meant by one controversial thing or another. They weren't controversial to the left or to the right, they were controversial in the service of challenging people to move out of their spaces of complacency and to not think in easy, lockstep, cookie-c utter ways. He was always fighting against those easy answers to questions that seemed “obvious” just because they were the way “everybody did everything” yesterday, as opposed to looking at what we could be doing effectively now.
One example of this was Gene's refusal to be pigeon- holed by the pacifist movement. When he was starting up, before publishing his quintessential work,6. some of those closest to him were War Resisters League- based World War Two conscientious objectors, including Ralph Digia and Bill Sutherland. Both of those men played major mentoring roles for me, and while all three of them stayed in touch as lifelong friends, Ralph told stories about how Gene stayed a bit distant from the rest, anxious for all of them to start study groups and investigate the ideals they were asserting! Though interested in exploring the power of nonviolent social change, Gene didn't want to be referred to as a "pacifist," a distinction not many were making in those days. Even decades later, when he begrudgingly accepted a Peace and Justice Studies Association lifetime achievement award, Gene railed against what he considered a semi- religious approach that viewed as based on faith, not on effective tactics and tools which could be utilized to help support people with no interest in "lifestyle" nonviolence."
The other piece of it, though, as David mentioned earlier, links to my first book in African Studies, Guns and Gandhi in Africa, which was co- written by the pan- African elder and my first mentor Bill Sutherland. Bill and Gene were both conscientious objectors who knew each other from the late 1940s and 1950s onwards. Gene infuriated many people in our fields because of his refusal to be too easily characterized or boxed and his insistence on rigorous intellectual investigation. Though deeply problematic, I think these characteristics helped lead to the crazy characterization of Gene as a US State Department agent, but also to the opposite misappropriation of him as some sort of peace movement God, the most important singular voice for peace over the last hundred years. I think these dichotomies don't serve us well. They are all born of a certain type of mythmaking from a certain type of oversimplification.
In any case, when I was a graduate student and working with Bill Sutherland, and we were talking about Africa, I first got to meet one-o n- one with Gene because Bill was living in Tanzania and we decided that I should pick Gene’s brain on some of the approaches that our Pan African work might take. Gene’s main advice to me, personally and politically, was: “don't get a degree in peace studies! Do whatever the hell you can; go to the fanciest university you can, and get the best grade point average you can in whatever subject matter—s ociology, history, political science— it doesn't matter! Just become a very, very good fill- in- the- blank at a very, very good university and then use those skills to research peace and justice and social change.”
We write to, speak to, and have mentored generations of people who are getting undergraduate and graduate degrees in peace studies, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I think the insight within Gene’s challenge to avoid getting ghettoized within an amorphous thing that is that even now, some decades later, peace studies barely exist. one has to be a very, very good historian and a very, very good “whatever” to really look at making effective peace.
But Gene pushed us to question what, exactly, peace studies is and what its distinctive contributions to understanding or making effective peace could be.
David, your points are in many ways even more directly practical. It's easy to make no mistakes when you don't talk to anyone out of your tiny circle. You know, we're in these pandemic pods of two or three or four people and if that's all we ever speak to we will have a lot more agreement. We will also have a lot less success. “Speaking to the choir” has become, “my god, if we could only get a choir that would be great. We can barely get a quartet.” So the fact of the matter is that the passion to go well beyond the choir means you're going to sit in a room with people who have wildly different views and approaches. If we think we can achieve lasting global peace without creating rooms of that size, conversations of that size, research and essays and books that speak to that breath of an audience— well, there's no history that I have read that suggests that such a narrow and tiny view on an approach to the world is going to effectively make change.
David Hostetter: Yeah, it's a straddle for certain. I was just remembering my first review in Peace and Change; I knew I was home because both my undergraduate advisor and my graduate advisor had pieces in the same issue. And so that solidarity and support you get from a small community à la Margaret Mead’s famous aphorism7. is important, but it also can be limiting in terms of speaking with other people and getting scholarship to be heard. I had a conversation years back at the 2008 American Historical Association meeting when Scott Bennett and I were staffing the PHS table and somebody from the Military History Society came up. It was an interesting exchange because his first question was basically “so what's your chain of command?” Well, as you might imagine, “chain of command” is not our priority. But it was interesting to see someone with military experience who got into history thinking in that systematic way, in which you know who is in charge, how you make decisions and how you act upon them.
The other thing that always comes to mind when I'm thinking about the applicability of scholarship and the interface with activism is [Saul] Alinsky’s most important point, which is that people do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Perhaps from the influence of the peace churches and the fact that a lot of peace studies departments are at Christian universities, the notion that you need to believe before you act is an assumption on a lot of people's parts. From the scholarly point of view it's like “well, that is true for individuals and activist organizations, but not for the way change happens.” Circling back to Gene, I think he was good at shaking up that thinking. He certainly shook mine up about where scholars should put their emphasis, on documenting case studies and documenting examples that might have broader applicability. I think we have gone a long way in Peace & Change in doing that over the thirty years I have been around PHS.
Heather Fryer: You have both indirectly addressed two of my concerns as the editor of Peace & Change. one is how to set forth a meaningful agenda for the journal as we encounter a rapidly changing academic landscape, and as activists, practitioners, and all of us face the effects of the COVID- 19 pandemic, an intensification of racism and racial violence, the sharp rise in autocracy, militarism, cyberwarfare, disinformation, and shocks to societies from the climate crisis— I could go on, but we have all lived through the past five years or so, so you know what I mean.
My second, related concern is about how to make peace studies an intellectual home ground for a more diverse community of researchers, scholars, and practitioners. I see real potential in what you are saying about bringing together the elder and the younger generations, and about building relationships in international networks. Do either of you have other ideas or initiatives in mind that could help your organizations, or Peace & Change, develop a fully diverse community of researchers?
David Hostetter: I organized a panel at the Peace and Justice Studies Association meeting when it was Elizabethtown; Matt came to the panel and we had a nice gathering of faculty and scholars. But the PJSA conference was not just faculty and scholars, it was students as well. My observation in attending the panels and workshops there was that it seemed like we didn’t have very good overlap. The students who tend to be activist-m inded wanted to do their thing and talk to each other, and then the faculty who already talked to each other were preaching to the choir. My idea in that case was that it would have been a better conference for me if one day had been dedicated to student presentations and another to faculty presentations so we would have had more crossover. I don't know why that didn't happen, but that's the example that comes to mind of a missed opportunity. As we go forward using more virtual online opportunities I hope that we won't just dispense with the virtual aspect, but that it remains it a constant part of the conference atmosphere so that there will be more participation and more ways for people to be involved.
Matt Meyer: We have to keep both, though “have to” is complicated by the economics of producing a journal and the fact that our resources are finite. We are not going to have print editions on the scale we did before. We are not going to suddenly produce monthly issues and increase the staffing to a dozen editors—Imean, we would love that, but that is not who we are, at least not in the foreseeable future. The fact of the matter is that we have done an extraordinary job with the limited resources and capacity that we have. The virtual side of it and the online part of it give us the ability to cheaply reach many, many more people from many, many more places.
But reaching people doesn't always mean hearing from them. It doesn't always mean getting the diversity of voices in the mix. There has to be a certain mindfulness about that. The main thing I want to say is a very hopeful thing. I have been privileged to live many of the last ten years in an international setting, working with an organization for which I'm traveling (though obviously not during COVID) and on an interface where I am Zooming with more scholars from every corner of the world than from within my own home base in the United States. There is a space there where all of the issues— of racial and economic and ethnic and cultural division and degradation—a re not as charged, not as filled with tension as we find here in the United States. It is really good news; it's exciting news, but it's not to say that the answer is to “just look there.” Those tensions based on white supremacy and patriarchy and imperialism and certain authoritarian ways of thinking, even sometimes within peace and left circles, have to be confronted.
As I said earlier about IPRA, the colonized peoples’ insights from their struggles contribute strategic and tactical thinking that is more nuanced than many of us are used to. Similarly, some of the African, Asia Pacific, and Latin American voices at the center of IPRA conversations shape the wider conversations about race and class and gender and identity. We need to have more diverse peoples of diverse identities in our pages. It's not always all about the splits and the divisions that seem to appear at the fore of so much of the US academic and activist discourse.
For many years now, IPRA has had on our Council a structural mandate to have four representatives of each region of the world, two men, and two women. It’s one of the things I am most proud of. We have as part of our structure that people from the Global North are inherently a minority and that men never become a supermajority within the Council. That alone shapes the conversation to a certain degree. I am not sure how this white older dude from the US got elected Secretary General, but things happen.
I say all of this not to avoid any of those questions that you ask, Heather, about what I think does face the journal, our work, and our associations, but is to say that a truly internationalist view of the world will give us hope. It will give us some roadmaps toward answers to some of those questions that are apparently more vexing within the US at this moment.
Heather Fryer: You didn’t avoid the question at all, Matt. Both you and David have provided solid markers for me as editor of Peace & Change and all of us who work in peace history and peace studies to move forward into an uncertain era. I would like to hear each of your final thoughts about the work ahead.
David Hostetter: I think of Jim Forest’s letter from Thomas Merton, which crumbled into pieces long ago but used to be on my bulletin board. What I take away from that is that whatever we do in scholarship or activism, the thing that is easily forgotten is that we are all about building trust. Trust is really the building block of any kind of peacemaking or peace building. If we don't build it among ourselves and present trustworthiness to others we are not going to succeed.
This is more personal, but as I am going through the various condolence cards and letters I got after my dad died, I keep learning all the different things he did to build trust and to influence people. Although on the surface, he seemed like a very establishment singular guy being a McGovern Republican—t here weren't very many of those—h is legacy is that he built trust among people. My experience in the peace movement is that some people did [build trust] that and some people did not, and that we inherit the legacy of both of those kinds of actions as we try to go forward. That is what I look for as the key to peacebuilding and in whatever I am investigating as a scholar.
Matt Meyer: Indeed, and it does speak to a tremendous excitement. Through COPRED and then PJSA I have been privy to some of those conversations over the decades. For me, Peace & Change was always such an important part of the package of being a member of those organizations and as a historian I have longed for a greater connection personally with the Peace History Society. I feel like the organization- to- organization and person- to- person connections build trust, and building camaraderie is significant and such a central part of the work.
In making these issues [of Peace & Change] we curate conversations between the authors and contributors. David, your thoughts about Jim Forest and Thomas Merton inspire me to end on another piece of this puzzle, which is from Barbara Deming who some might know as a radical lesbian feminist of the 1960s and 1970s. Before that she was a writer for Liberation magazine working with A.J. Muste and Dave Dellinger and others as a young white woman who was deeply involved in the civil rights— the so- called “civil rights movement”— or the Black freedom struggles. Barbara Deming wrote an open letter to Frantz Fanon referencing Gandhi and other sources in talking about revolution and equilibrium, but revolution in the context of nonviolence. When she talked and wrote about nonviolence, which was for her a lifelong commitment to radical revolutionary nonviolence, Barbara kept reminding us in the 1960s and 1970s and into the 1980s that nonviolence is really a very, very new idea, from a practical point of view: not conceptually, but in terms of implementation. I think this is true for peace history and peace studies and peace research, and for a journal that is forty or fifty years old, this is a little teeny blip in the history of academic systemic thinking. We have to understand our field and our work as really being in an early stage of experimentation. That's the way Barbara put it: an experiment that is just barely begun. We may be moving now from a sort of infant stage, maybe we are edging on toward adolescence, and we have to understand that growth means recognition. We are not as old as a field as our individual bodies may feel. So we have a responsibility, and a challenge, which pushes us to think outside the box and to envision widely and broadly the many futures that can be built based on our best hopes for the future.
Heather Fryer: Our organizations and the work that will flow from them is in very good hands under each of your leadership. Thank you, David and Matt, for sharing your perspectives and for giving me and Peace & Change readers so many starting points for charting our ways forward.
1.Bill Sutherland and Matt Meyer, Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle and Liberation in Africa, (Trenton and Asmara: Africa World Press, 2000).
2.See Jimmy Carter, “State of the Union Address, January 23, 1980,” Selected Speeches of Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, https://www.jimmy carte rlibra ry.gov/assets/docum ents/speec hes/su80j ec.phtml.
3.David Hostetter, “Editor’s Introduction: Muted Voices, Long Shadows,” Peace & Change 44 no.2 (April 2019): 135‒ 138.
4.Latin American Call for a More Just and Peaceful “New Normal,” Waging Nonviolence, May 28, 2020, https:// wagin gnonv iolen ce.org/ipra/2020/05/manif esto-f or-a- more- just- and- peace ful- new- norma l/;Consejo Latinoamerican de Investiación para la Paz, “Manifiesto: Por Qué No Volver a la Normalidad,” http://www.unanu evano rmalid ad. org/?fbcli d=IwAR1 A7aDr aAAjW 1o1aD 0Z6Xh IJsHM GDlrK VJxtL Imm5I 4kOwn hzzcG OymgY Y#home- section, accessed March 28, 2021.
5.Sharp became the subject of criticism and even suspicion when Wikileaks claimed in 2008 that it was in possession of a cable documenting that Sharp had been working with the US Embassy in Damascus—a n accusation that Sharp roundly denied. The debates over who Sharp’s work ultimately empowered— the people, the US government, or the neoliberal project--became especially polarized in the wake of his death in 2018. See Adam Roberts, “Gene Sharp: Political Scientist Who Was the Leading Theorist of Nonviolent Protest and Resistance,” The Guardian, February 12, 2018, https://www.thegu ardian.com/world/2 018/feb/12/gene-sharp - obituary; Marcie Smith, “Change Agent: Gene Sharp’s Neoliberal Nonviolence,” NonSite, May 10, 2018, https://nonsi te.org/chang e- agent - gene- sharps- neoli beral - nonvi olenc e- part- one; Ruaridh Arrow, “Correcting Attacks Against Gene Sharp,” How to Start a Revolution, May 2018, https://www.howtos tartarevo lution.org/single -post/2018/08/15/; George Lakey, “Will the Real Gene Sharp Please Stand Up?” Waging Nonviolence, July 16, 2019, https://waging nonviolen ce.org/2019/07/ gene- sharp - cold- war-i ntellectu al- marci e- smith/; Marcie Smith, “Getting Gene Sharp Wrong,” Jacobin, December 2, 2019, https://www.jacob inmag.com/2019/12/gene- sharp - georg e- lakey - neoli beral - nonvio lence; Craig Brown, “The Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and Gene Sharp’s Misunderstood Legacy,” Waging Nonviolence, September 10, 2020, https://wagin gnonv iolen ce.org/rs/2020/09/commu nism- easte rn- europ e- gene- sharp- legac y/.
6.Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973).
7.The quote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” is widely attributed to Margaret Mead, perhaps from her speech at the first Earth Day speech in 1970. See Nancy C. Lutkehaus, Margaret Mead: The Making of an American Icon (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 2008), 261.
How to cite this article: Fryer H. In conversation: David Hostetter and Matt Meyer on the pasts and futures of peace research. Peace Change. 2021; 46: 229–240. https://doi.org/10.1111/ pech.12463
Dr. Leo Semashko,
- Peacemaking parental, national motivation since birth "WHAT WOULD NO A WAR!": https://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=1023,
- Valid state adviser of St. Petersburg as a deputy of its Parliament (Lensovet/Petrosovet) in 1990-1993 from 48th City Electoral District: https://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=58,
- Philosopher, sociologist, statistics, sociocybernetic and international peacemaker from harmony: https://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=1000,
- He graduated from the Philosophy Faculty of Moscow State University and its graduate school at the Department of Foreign Philosophy, PhD, Associate Professor, RANH Professor,
- Pedagogical experience of humanitarian (philosophy, sociology, law, political science, etc.) teaching at universities in St. Petersburg and other cities - about 20 years: https://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=917,
- Founder (2005) and Honorary President of the International Gandhian Global Harmony Association (GGHA), whose website "Peace from Spherons Harmony" for 16 years has recorded more than 17 million visits: https://peacefromharmony.org,
- Lifetime Honorary Member of RC51 "Sociocybernetics" International Sociological Association,
- Three times nominated together with GGHA by the Western scientists at the Nobel Peace Prize (2013, 2017, and 2020): https://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=1000,
- Scientific peacemaking achievements 1970-2021: https://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=1023,
- Since 1970, cooperation with hundreds of domestic and foreign scholars of the humanities, since 2000 - with more than 600 Western humanitarians from more than 50 countries, including 5 Nobel Peace Laureates: Mairead Maguire, John Avery, Adolfo Esquivel, Ernesto Kahan, Beatrice Fihn, President of India Abdul Kalam, leader of Japanese Buddhists Daisaku Ikeda, Norwegian pioneer of peace researches Johan Galtung, American linguist Noam Chomsky, Kazakh economist academician Uraz Baimuratov, Japanese sociologist Reiman Bachika, British cyberneticist Bernard Scott, Russian historian Vladislav Krasnov, Indian sociologist Maitreyee Roy, French philosopher Guy Crequie, Pakistani statistician Noor Larik, African lawyer Ayo Amale, Indian poet Ashok Chakravarthy, Greek writer and poet Takis Ioannides, American theologian Rudolf Siebert and many other world famous scientists and peacemakers: https://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=1000,
- More than 1600 publications, including 20 books in 1-12 languages, many of which are in the world's largest libraries: British, US Congress, Sorbonne, etc. The Russia National Electronic Library (NEL) with its Russian Science Citation Index (RSCI) was open to me only since August 24, 2021, Only 28 my publications, less than 2%, are included in it now. The rest remain unknown to Russian scientists. Prior to this, the NEL RSCI, since the very beginning 2005, was fully closed for my publications for 16 years: https://www.elibrary.ru/author_items.asp?authorid=3238&show_refs=1&show_option=1
- Personal page: https://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=253,
- Skype: leo.semahko
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org