The development of the World Peace Council in the late 1940s and early 1950s was the subject of a fascinating seminar in the department on Wednesday 5 October. The Council emerged in the post-war era, campaigning for peace, for arms reduction and for nuclear disarmament. It was strongly connected with communist parties throughout the world, but in Geoffrey Roberts' insightful presentation, he emphasised that the Council was by no means the obedient stooge of the Soviet Union that it was often portrayed as. His recent research in Russian archives suggests an organisation more than capable of asserting its own opinions, and even capable of turning Soviet foreign policy away from the idea of the inevitability of conflict with the capitalist world and towards the idea of peace as a core aim.
A number of leading West European intellectuals were involved with the Council, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Pablo Picasso. Indeed, Prof. Roberts noted how he had attended the "Peace and Freedom" exhibition at the Tate Liverpool in 2010, which explored Picasso's links with the Council. Prof. Roberts also noted the extraordinary capacity the WPC had for involving literally millions of people in signing global petitions for peace and against nuclear weapons.
Prof. Roberts is Head of the Department of History in University College Cork, and is a noted expert on Soviet foreign policy. The talk was a great way to start the new programme of speakers for the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Centre for War and Peace Studies.
An Atrocity Story of the First World War: Edith Wharton's "Coming Home"
This examination of one of Edith Wharton's few short stories written about the First World War argues that "Coming Home" manipulates the atrocity story genre in order to explore the ways in which war is represented and war narratives are constructed. In a later piece, "Writing a War Story," Wharton satirizes popular war-time publications by portraying an amateur authoress who is asked by a magazine editor: "Give us a good stirring trench story, with a Coming-Home scene to close with ... a Christmas scene, if you can manage it" (248). Her war story "Coming Home" is of a rather different kind, using omission and suggestion to depict the ambiguities of war's violence and horror. By combining generic elements of atrocity stories and their reception with meta-narratives built upon multiple perspectives and voices, Wharton creates a layered text that demands reader engagement in the act of interpretation. This presentation first establishes the context of the atrocity genre and Wharton's personal stake in its development, and then turns to a close-reading analysis of the text of "Coming Home." One of the key conclusions reached is that "by embedding the atrocity narrative with subtexts that raise issues about women, class degeneration, patriarchy, and the nature of truth, Wharton found a way to both apply and challenge the atrocity story as an established form and subject."
"The role of political, socio-economic factors and the media in Nigeria's inter-religious conflict"
Dr Musa Aliyu
Musa Aliyu delivered a paper on his recently completed PhD, which looked at the coverage of religious conflicts in Nigeria in the country's newspapers. Comparing the coverage of the conflicts in papers in the North and those in the South of Nigeria, he demonstrated ways in which Nigerian newspapers are regionally, ethnically and religiously inclined; they are particularly affected by factors like ownership, location, staffing and audience perception, which determine how they tailor reports. He argued that the newspapers are not usually the cause of religious crises but they stoke the problem through biased and sometimes inflammatory reports. Situating the press against the backdrop of Nigeria's political, social and economic history and culture, he suggested that the role of newspapers in the conflicts has been one of amplification rather than mitigation. Dr. Aliyu concluded by suggesting ways in which the press could become a conduit for breaking down differences and emphasising similarities within the Nigerian population in order to reduce tension and prevent conflict.
"The Challenge of Post Conflict Reconstruction in Liberia: Lessons Learnt"
Professor Nicholas Rees
This paper looks at post conflict reconstruction in Liberia, reflecting on the challenges and lessons learnt. The paper grew out of a study of the role of UN peacekeeping in Liberia, which looked previously at the organisational and operational dimensions of the mission. The paper reflects on how peacekeeping has changed in such complex situations and the implications for peacekeepers. The paper broadly considers the historical development to the conflict in Liberia and the subsequent UN involvement in peacekeeping. This provides an important backdrop to understanding the impact of the conflict and the challenges of post-conflict reconstruction, including the process of disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and rehabilitation. The paper considers the post-conflict security, economic and governance challenges in the country and the response of the new government of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (2005 and 2011) and international agencies/NGOs to these issues. The paper concludes that the country faces significant post-conflict challenges, including a broader regional context, which will require long-term significant international support.
"The First World War in Recent Northern Irish Poetry"
Dr Terry Phillips
This paper examines the treatment of First World War memory by a range of poets writing in Northern Ireland over the last five decades. It begins by an analysis of the way in which memory of the First World War was 'captured by unionists for the unionist tradition'(Boyce) with the willing complicity of the nationalist population, which shared in the repression of the memory of involvement in the conflict taking place in the newly formed Free State to the south. However the paper argues that the subject of memory goes far beyond the officially sanctioned national memory and is far more complex. While there are certainly profound differences in the war memory of Ulster and the war memory of England, particularly in the collective memory of the two regions, there are also shared elements of memory.
To read the full summary please see Terry Phillips - "Thursday" seminar
"Buddhism and Post-War Reconciliation in Sri Lanka"
Dr Elizabeth Harris
Dr Elizabeth Harris gave a talk on "Buddhism and Post-War Reconciliation in Sri Lanka" as part of our "Thursday Seminars" series on Thursday 16 February 2012.
"Nigeria's violent crises and potential political and socio-economic implications for the rest of the world"
Dr Musa Aliyu
This presentation seeks to examine the possibility of the current widespread violence in Nigeria leading to the collapse of the country and the major implications for the global village. It begins by looking at the phases through which Nigeria passed since its return to civil rule in 1999 and how each of the elected regimes has contributed through manifest actions or inactions to either inflame or exacerbate ethnic and/or religious tension in the three main regions of the country. In view of this the emergence of regional rebellious groups like the Odua People's Congress (OPC) in the south-west, Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in the south-east, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in the south-south and the Boko Haram religious sect in the North is pondered and each group's mode of presentation of its grievances examined. The Boko Haram, whose campaign of bombings represents an unprecedented threat to the existence of Nigeria, is specifically focused on. All this is done in view of the prediction by a group of American experts on sub-Saharan Africa that Nigeria might cease to exist as a country by 2015. The presentation looks at the likely impacts of such an implosion within Nigeria, a country of more 140 million people, and considered Africa's second largest economy. The implications for a world that is increasingly linked by a network of economic, social and commercial activities are seriously considered. This presentation therefore argues that if this drift is not checked, the world risks major security/social and economic challenges as there is a possibility of a massive refugee outflow igniting more conflicts within the West African sub-region, while the success of the violent campaigns by some of these rebel groups within Nigeria could encourage copycat uprisings in many parts of Africa. Hence, the rest of the world could face not only rising refugee and security problems but also the collapse of a strategic commercial base and a supplier of oil - Nigeria being the world's sixth largest producer of crude oil.
"The Most important Thing in the World": Food and Global Conflict
Dr Bryce Evans
Food has always played a decisive role in global conflict. "When I was a small boy at school" wrote George Orwell, "a lecturer used to come in once a term and deliver talks on famous battles of the past ... He was fond of quoting Napoleon's maxim 'An army marches on its stomach', and at the end of his lecture he would suddenly turn to us and demand, 'What's the most important thing in the world?' We were expected to shout 'Food!'."
As Orwell later noted, the Great War could not have happened without tinned food. Neither can the Second World War, the quintessential total war, be understood without reference to food or, more aptly, the weapon of starvation. Yet 'food and war', in popular historical memory, evokes the plucky but mild image of 'muddling through' despite rationing.
This lecture, by contrast, relays the hidden story of the war in terms of food supply and starvation strategy. This story is not only a material one: popular narratives, morals and myths attached to consumption played a decisive role in the conflict. This paper also reflects on the rhetoric of food in global conflict, from World War, to Cold War, to War on Terror.
Drawing on research into Ireland's wartime food experience compared to Britain and the European neutrals - Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland - this paper provides a very different global narrative of the Second World War.
"Negotiating Peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Resistance against the Transformation of Public Space"
Dr Stefanie Kappler
Despite the ambitions of numerous peacebuilding actors in Bosnia-Herzegovina to unify society as well as its political and economic structures, there is a tendency of the public sphere to disintegrate. The multiple divisions of the public space have divided the social fabric on the one hand, but they have faced local resistance on the other hand. Social sub-spheres have been emerging in which people form their identities and voice their needs in alternative ways. In that sense, political and peace-related processes are moving from the formal political sphere into a more fragmented landscape of social counter-spaces.
"Enter the Dragon: Chinese Peacebuilding in Africa"
This presentation argued that, instead of criticizing Beijing for security free-riding and non-cooperation in liberal peace projects in Africa, we should engage with Beijing's perspective on African security and its rationale for non-interference in Africa's domestic affairs. Beijing views the liberal peace project as the neocolonial hegemonic imposition of the West and, furthermore, believes it contributes to African insecurity. This view comes from China's communication with African elites, Beijing's own historical experiences with colonialism, and a mix of realist, Marxist, and postcolonial analysis. China's assessment of African security is state-centric and elite focused. This presentation discussed how and why Beijing's understanding of and policy for African security has evolved and the direction it is likely to take in the future.
Steven is in his final year as a PhD candidate from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa and the University of St Andrews. To know more about Steven's work and research interests please click on the following link: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/intrel/people/index.php/csk23.html.