Book Review: 2,500 voices defining peace and reconciliation
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2,500 Voices Defining Peace and Reconciliation
A review of "International Handbook of Peace and Reconciliation" by Kathleen Malley-Morrison, Andrea Mercurio and Gabriel Twose.
Reviewed by Fathali Moghaddam and Victoria Heckenlaible.
Over 2,500 voices went into the creation of the International Handbook of Peace and Reconciliation through the authors, editors, interviewers, and respondents. The voices came together to define peace and the mechanisms of peace such as apology, reconciliation, and protest on a global and regional level. In terms of the sheer number of international voices involved in a single publication, this is an impressive effort.
A constructive feature of the book is that it does not settle with a Western perspective or generalized global perspective but instead covers specific populations across the globe. Regions from Western Europe; to the United Kingdom/Anglo nations; to Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Greece; to the Middle East; to Africa; to Latin America; to South and Southeast Asia and East Asia are given space to express their community’s opinions on peace, the concept’s feasibility, and how to achieve it. Clearly, support for peace and human rights has become a majority norm around the world (Finkel & Moghaddam, 2005).
The editors have some success in leveraging a diverse range of authors to capture regional perspectives. Each continent is represented by at least two established local academics. Although the breadth of representations is admirable, and something to be emulated, North American academics still dominate the list of contributors, with 66 percent of the authors being based in American institutions. This leaves room for improvement; non-American academics could be better represented in future handbooks. Thus, although this handbook takes up the challenge of presenting a global view on peace and conflict, the editors run into the usual problem found in most academic fields: the domination of U.S. institutions and scholars. But this usual challenge takes on a heightened importance when the topic of research is peace and conflict resolution.
Often in discussions of what promotes and constitutes peace, communities hold differing standards, which emphasizes the need for diverse opinions. For example, the rest of the world often accuses the United States of applying double standards, such as waging war against “anti-American” dictators while maintaining peaceful and even supportive relations with “pro-American” dictators. This double-standard policy has resulted, for example, in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 but also in strong support for, and peaceful relations with, the Saudi dictatorship. This double standard is implicit in discussions about peace and conflict in the global context (Moghaddam, 2010), including in this handbook.
A strength of the Handbook is the layout and systematic approach. Each section — Definitions of Peace and Reconciliation, Perspectives on Protest, Apology and Reconciliation, and Perspectives on Achieving Peace — begins with a field survey of definitions and methodology. The articles then go in sequence by regional categories, with a wrap-up of conclusions compared along a wide variety of demographic lines.
However, a shortcoming also arises out of the project’s basic design. Because the structure and definition sources tend to be repetitive, the literature reviews and base concepts tend to lack variety and the inclusion of additional concepts. Although this may limit the complexity of the presented information and be redundant for those already familiar with foundational peace principles, the layout positions the book as exactly what the book’s title implies, a handbook.
The handbook nature gives the book a unique cross-regional comparative component, as the studies have similar methodologies and theoretical basis. Thus, female perspectives on reconciliation processes in Africa can be directly compared with female perspectives on reconciliation processes in Latin America. The feasibility of direct comparisons allows academics, students, professionals, and others who pick up this book to listen in on the global peace pulse.
When the reader listens to the pulse, insights on how people process conflict — a situation that affects a population’s definitions, reactions, and goals for generations — emerge. The majority of authors link the historical context of each region to the survey findings, often making attempts to generalize. For example, the reader finds such claims as people living in areas of the world that experienced direct conflict during World War II (including Europe, Russia, and the Balkans) tend to view peace as the absence of bombing and bloodshed. In this way, the Handbook situates peace and peace processes within social structures, political happenings, and international relations.
This Handbook can be viewed as a constructive outcome of globalization processes; increasing interconnectedness has enabled the production of such a global work. On the other hand, globalization also has destructive outcomes, such as identity threats, radicalization, and terrorism (Moghaddam 2008). Thus, the peace processes that represent the focus of this Handbook represent one side of the globalization coin.
Overall, the International Handbook of Peace and Reconciliation is a worthwhile read for a variety of audiences, from the first-year student beginning to explore our field’s foundational concepts to experts looking for solid statistics concerning how peace is perceived, understood, and strived for across the globe.
Finkel, N. J., & Moghaddam, F. M. (Eds.). (2005). The psychology of rights and duties: Empirical contributions and normative commentaries. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/10872-000
Moghaddam, F. M. (2008). How globalization spurs terrorism: The lopsided benefits of “one world” and why that fuels violence. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Moghaddam, F. M. (2010). The new global insecurity: How terrorism, environmental collapse, economic inequalities, and resource shortages are changing our world. Westport, CT: Praeger.