March 19, 2009
Political Science Professors Jennifer Abbassi and Mari Ishibashi join professors from military and peace schools for discussion
LYNCHBURG – When Jennifer Abbassi, associate professor of political science, attended last year’s International Studies Association conference, she was struck by similarities between peace studies scholars and scholars who teach at military institutes.
Both spent their sessions discussing whether students were adequately being prepared for 21st century challenges.
“It was fascinating to me that the peace and military studies professors, maybe without even knowing it, were asking the same questions,”Abbassi said. So she decided to invite participants from both panels to come together in a joint session at the next conference.
The 2009 conference, held recently in New York, included a well-attended and innovative roundtable titled, “Military Studies and Peace Studies People Talking: Building a Common Language for Teaching and Scholarship on 21st Century War and Peacebuilding.” Abbassi was joined by Mari Ishibashi, also a Randolph associate professor of political science. The two joined panelists who teach at peace institutes, such as the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame, and civilians who teach at military institutions, such as the Naval War College. The focus was on teaching – what is taught, how, why, and for whom.
“The goal was to find overlapping questions, approaches and concerns,” Abbassi said, adding that another goal was to find ways to work together in collaborative research projects.
“There is a new landscape now,” Abbassi said. “We have wars happening within countries, instead of between them. The nature of conflict and the complexity of war are different, and there are multi-dimensional challenges to building peace after war.”
Despite the obvious differences between peace studies and military studies, there is a shared goal – avoiding war and sustaining peace.
Abbassi is already working with several of the panelists on both a follow-panel for next year’s conference and on a book project.
“Part of this was demystifying the other side,” Abbassi said. “It was really wonderful to hear the discussions. We recognized our differences, which helped us to be more expansive in our thinking. I believe we are on to something in terms of crossing boundaries and devising innovative approaches for the kinds of teaching that present and future circumstances require. I’m already using this in my classroom.”