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Peace Studies week discusses violence and healing

The biennial Peace Studies Conference begins today, Feb. 28, in the JRC and will continue through Saturday. The keynote speaker, Al Fuertes, will be speaking at 7:30 p.m. this evening in JRC 101.

Fuertes’ presentation, “Legacies of Unimaginable Violence: Healing and Recovery in the Philippines and Cambodia,” will emphasize both the academic side of peace and conflict studies and its practical applications.

The talk will address genocide in Cambodia and recent Muslim-Christian violence in the Philippines.

“[The] presentation is based on my years of field practice and will highlight interdisciplinary perspectives of psychosocial trauma and healing as articulated by Cambodians and Filipinos against the backdrop of their trauma experience,” according to a statement by Fuertes.

His work aims to address the deeper causes of conflict in order to help communities address conflict in productive ways.

“He works with communities where there has been, such as in Cambodia, genocide, or ethnic conflict, or communities that have been torn apart by violence,” said Peace and Conflict Studies Program Coordinator Val Vetter, Music. “… if these rifts and deep-seated traumas are not addressed, then it leads to a cycle of violence, so he works with people to address these traumas.”

Vetter said she is excited for the opportunity to bring Fuertes to campus because his expertise combines academic work and field experience.

“We often will look for a scholar-practitioner,” she said. “[We want] someone who is a scholar, someone who does scholarly work, academic work in peace and conflict studies, but also does peace building work in the field.”

“He’s also a teacher at George Mason University,” said Lamia Faruk ’16, a member of the Peace and Conflict Studies Committee. “We wanted someone who could interact with students also.”

Fuertes’ focus on Southeast Asia was an important point for conference organizers.

“We don’t often have people from, or who talk about, Southeast Asia,” Vetter said. “So we thought that it would be an important way to sort of broaden people’s awareness of Southeast Asia.”

Along with Fuertes’ insights into peace and conflict studies, conference organizers hope that the event will deepen the community’s understanding of the discipline. Both Faruk and Vetter aim to bring awareness to the academic side of peace and conflict studies.

“One of the really cool things about why we’re even having this conference is that when you first think about peace studies you think about activism and humanitarian work,” Faruk said. “But peace studies is also an academic field, and I think the conference is really cool in that it’s really highlighting that it’s rigorous scholarship.”

The conference is structured around the presentation of papers written by students in the field. Grinnell students, as well as six students from other schools, will present their papers during panels moderated by faculty members.

“I know that one thing that makes our conference really strong is that the papers are organized into themed panels—really interesting panels,” Vetter said. “And then we have these fantastic faculty who are moderators and respondents. In every case, the faculty do an incredible job of bringing out really interesting themes and provocative questions and leading discussions.”

The conference includes panels in fields as dissimilar as economics and art history. “If you look at the program, it’s incredibly diverse,” Faruk said. “It’ll be really interesting to hear all the research that’s happened.”

The conference is the third that Grinnell has hosted over the 10 years the Peace and Conflict Studies Program has existed. Student panels begin at 4:15 this afternoon, followed by Fuertes’ presentation on trauma healing. A complete schedule for the weekend can be found on the Peace and Conflict Studies website.

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