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PACS 290

Topics in Peace and Conflict Studies

An examination of selected topics dealing with conflict or peace studies. Courses, while interdisciplinary in nature, will generally be taught from a peace and conflict studies perspective.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Social Science 1/4-1/2-1.0 course

Spring Semester information

Glen Kuecker

290A: Tps:Complexity Thinking

Fall Semester information

Glen Kuecker

290A: Tps:Introduction to Urban Studies

Rachel Goldberg

290B: Tps:God at War and Peace

Religion can be a call to war and an inspiration for peace. Religion is also the source of most of the world's moral norms about peace and forgiveness, (for good and for ill), and has been an important root for positive social change and nonviolence, through, for instance, the deeply faith-based work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi. As you might guess, religion can be one of the more powerful influences in conflict. In fact, some argue that religion is so often used as an excuse for violence and hatred that ending all religions would significantly reduce incidences of war (Richard Dawkins). Others, however, argue that religion may also be the best way to resolve or respond to some of the deepest and most troubling conflicts of our time. For instance, R. Scott Appleby says that "the parts of Islam and Christianity that speak for openness, diversity, and unity have been 'a woefully underdeveloped resource in conflict resolution in general.'"
The class will explore the underlying questions shaping these debates, including how religious identity, theology, psychology, and religious moral norms influence past and current conflicts, both as a source of inner guidance, and as ideological tools for dominance. We will examine various explanations for how religion is being used as a source of division, and why and how that succeeds. Some feel the risk or danger is that with increasing success, selective religious interpretations are being used to escalate conflict with a goal of creating new, theocratic regimes and movements.
The positive potential, however, can be seen in social change movements like Engaged Buddhism, which motivated Thich Nhat Hanh's Buddhist Struggle Movement in Vietnam. We will also investigate how faith is used to support conflict transformation, through preventive diplomacy, education and training, or through withdrawing or providing legitimacy for a rouge government or other legal structures.
We will be reviewing different literatures including Sociology and Psychology, as well as the Religious Peacebuilding literature, and examine different religious traditions and case studies regarding faith and peace and war. We will also examine the claims that science and technology can also be seen as a kind of faith, raising questions about what faith really is and how it affects peace and war. Further, we will connect different kinds of outcomes (stasis, war, negative peace, positive peace) with these differing uses of religion, and discuss how the underlying dynamics fueling destructive conflict can be shifted. One primary example we will study in-depth is the experience of Ed Husain, who came from a democratic, pluralist British background and was drawn into the Islamist movement, eventually becoming one of Britain's most important student militant leaders, before becoming disillusioned, searching for God, and becoming a voice for peace.