Breakout Session 1

0.0 Opening Plenary & Welcome: "Bridges to the Future: Strategic Challenges to Movement-Building"

featuring Matthew Lyons, Shon Meckfessel, Kempis “Ghani” Songster and Emily Welty

  • ​From the military industrial complex to realizing our disarmament dreams, from the prison industrial complex to restorative justice for all, from primitive definitions of absolute pacifism to radical concepts of unarmed insurrection, our current and future movements - in the academy and in the streets - face extraordinary new challenges and opportunities. Our three presenters have, in written theory and practical campaigns, faced these challenges and emerged with thoughts about how we can best build and rebuild. 

1.1 Contemporary nonviolent strategies - Panel

  • “Efficacy of Op-eds as a Tool for Social Change,” Kelsey Gallagher (Conrad Grebel University College) and Lowell Ewert (Conrad Grebel University College)

In the United States, think tanks such as the Heritage Institute, Cato, and the American Enterprise Institute have been instrumental in shifting public policy to emphasize private advantage over the public good. Advocates of free-market fundamentalism have incrementally impressed themselves upon the political discourse, presenting their findings as objective, research-driven, and pursuant purely of truth. In our current ‘post-truth’ era, events in the United States have illustrated what can happen if a concentrated yet committed group embark on a tenacious struggle to influence public opinion. Canada is not immune to these forces. A similar breed of actors, sharing some of the same donors as their American cousins, are influencing Canadian opinions. This paper will outline how conservative Canadian think tanks employ a sophisticated strategy of opinion formation leveraging the power of op-eds. It explores the deliberate targeting of regional and community newspapers as a conduit into unassuming middle-class homes. These pieces are penned for the lay reader, and are calculated to breed skepticism and hostility towards progressive political ideals integral to the Canadian identity.  This paper describes how these outputs are methodically sent to understaffed and underfunded print media outlets susceptible to bargain content.
    This paper further explores the cognitive impacts of op-eds. Data shows that, when penned correctly, opinion editorials considerably influence the individual reader’s opinion on target issues. These effects are statistically significant regardless of a reader’s socio-economic status, party affiliation, or initial beliefs on the subject matter. These revelations potentially provide the rationale behind op-ed outreach efforts of think tanks. They also offer possible avenues for peacebuilders to combat the narratives of private gain over public good. This paper analyzes the potential for peacebuilders to utilize a similar initiative of leveraging op-eds to inform Canadian public opinion. Shifts in the national sentiment regarding healthcare, public education, indigenous reconciliation, diplomacy, etc., are shown to greatly affect the subsequent direction of drafted policy. This paper draws upon research addressing the best practices for crafting influential op-eds, which are not only likely to win the approval of editorial gatekeepers, but resonate with the average reader.

  • “Digital Nonviolence: Reformatting a Wired World through Noncooperation and Interconnection,” Randall Amster (Georgetown University)

Modern technology has a unique capacity to offer a sense of greater connection even as its actual workings often yield deeper forms of dislocation and alienation, exacerbating tendencies toward aggression, diminishing the development of empathy, and undermining bonds of community and solidarity. As Lewis Mumford wrote in 1964, technology possesses both “authoritarian and democratic” potentials, and it’s up to us to shape its trajectory in a constructive direction. To do so requires a spectrum of actions both in and for a digital age, spanning from digital activism that works with new tools of organizing and communication to developing strategies to transform the digital platforms themselves. In this sense, technology becomes a “problem” to the extent that it amplifies and reinforces preexisting social issues, indicating that its deployment for change be engaged with full awareness of the implications. As Gandhi replied when asked if he opposed all mechanization: “What I object to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such.” As King famously construed, we must “shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society” in order to confront issues of structural injustice. This paper looks at these issues in the context of time-tested techniques such as withdrawal of consent, noncooperation, boycotts, and civil disobedience, seeking to develop a framework for “rebooting the system” through the nonviolent application of design principles based on empathy and interconnection.

  • “Black Lives Matter: Power, Culture, and Perceptions of Social Movements in Contemporary America,” Shawn Queeney (Nova Southeastern University)

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement presents researchers and practitioners with a recent case to track how power and culture contribute to shaping perceptions within and outside of a social movement seeking to affect change in social and political arenas. This paper will apply the cultural theories of Hofestede and Korostelina to argue that BLM is more closely aligned with mainstream American values such as justice, equity, and fairness rather than the popular perception that it is a radical movement designed to undermine or damage American culture. The paper concludes with an assessment of the theories utilized and possibilities for future research.

  • “By Any Means Necessary?: Antifa versus Nonviolent Antifascism,” Catriona Hanley (Loyola University Maryland)

This paper discusses the nonviolent antifascist movement that was alive in Italy in the 1930’s,  bolstered by the philosophy of the Perugian scholar Aldo Capitini. It contrasts that radical form of Gandhian inspired antifascist resistance with the contemporary Antifa movement, popularized-- and arguably romanticized-- in Mark Bray’s Antifascist Handbook. The conservative traditionalist view is that political change starts from the top down, as if a theory of revolt offered by an authoritarian regime to a compliant and complicit populace will take root. It must be admitted that this theory has borne fruit in practical terms, and continues to do so in our contemporary world. Mussolini came to power and remained in power by means of an authoritarian deception from above, even if “populism” was ultimately revealed as despotism. The ensuing struggle against his government—the antifascism movement-- took forms of both violent and nonviolent struggle. This paper will offer a brief analysis, from a philosophical perspective, of possible responses to fascism.

1.2 Systems of Social Control - Panel

  • “Stereotyping Among Activists & Government Officials: How Othering Contributes to a Lack of Solutions,” Lisa Leitz (Chapman University), Rebecca Wilson (Chapman University), Atty McClellan (Chapman University), Bennett Tuleja (Chapman University) and Mary Frances Dagher (Chapman University)

In early 2017 and again in early 2018 Orange County governments attempted to clear a homeless encampment from the Santa Ana Riverbed. Also known as Skid River by many Orange County residents, the Riverbed had become home to hundreds of homeless residents. These evictions, as many homeless advocates are referring to them, sparked a new wave of activism for the homeless and their rights in Orange County. Despite research demonstrating that providing housing would reduce costs to the County and OC’s access to nearly two hundred-million dollars to address this issue, the County government refused substantial action. Using analysis of public documents, government meetings and media; ethnographic observations; and interviews with activists and service providers, we provide evidence of stereotyping and its negative consequences for overcoming structural violence in a community with the financial means to handle this issue. Activists encountered opposition in various City Councils and from the OC Supervisors, as charity and government service providers often stereotyped the homeless. Advocates countered this negativity with their own othering, meaning they used negative stereotypes about power holders in reaction to the negative labels about the homeless. 
    This paper analyzes the ways in which stereotyping has affected progress towards a solution to housing homeless individuals. The interactions between advocates, the homeless, and the county officials reveal ways that nonviolent activists must wrestle with their own prejudices and assumptions about government officials in order to achieve meaningful solutions to community problems. We attended or watched publicly available video recordings of Orange, Anaheim, and Santa Ana City Council meetings, the Orange County Supervisor meetings, and activist meetings. Between January 2017 and March 2018, we attended or watched 55 events. Additionally, we interviewed 10 activists, 5 service providers, and 5 people in perceived positions of power to gain in-depth perceptions of the issue and its participants. Since this qualitative analysis examines the numerous people and institutions involved in this discourse on homelessness, this research has opened up the doors for making suggestions to power holders and advocates to reduce othering and increase solution-based discourse.

  • “Resisting and Debunking the Mind Games of the One-Percent,” Roy Eidelson (Psychologists for Social Responsibility/Coalition for an Ethical Psychology)

While millions of Americans grasp for lifelines amid the unforgiving currents of extreme inequality, multi-millionaires and billionaires comfortably ride the waves and add to their enormous wealth and power. The contrast is jarring to be sure, but it persists nonetheless because self-interested representatives of the 1% have become masters at using manipulative psychological appeals — I call them “mind games” — to defuse and misdirect our outrage. And when they succeed, we regrettably lose our bearings about what’s happening, what’s right, what’s possible, and what we must do.
    In my proposed presentation, I’ll describe how these appeals focus on five concerns that are particularly influential in our daily lives: namely, issues of vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority and helplessness. Each is associated with a basic question we routinely ask ourselves: Are we safe? Are we treated fairly? Who should we trust? Are we good enough? Can we control what happens to us? The targeting of these particular concerns is a prominent feature in the propaganda campaigns of one-percenters who aim to discourage resistance to their narrow, self-aggrandizing agenda. Several examples will be explored: How the 1% feed our vulnerability fears by pushing alarmist accounts of perils in our midst (the “It’s a Dangerous World” mind game). How they twist our sense of injustice by insisting that they’re the ones who are actually being mistreated (“We’re the Victims”). How they promote distrust and disorganization within the ranks of their opponents by pitting potential allies against each other (“They’re Different from Us”). How they exploit notions of superiority by portraying the United States as a land of limitless opportunity where the cream always rises to the top (“They’re Losers”). And how they encourage feelings of helplessness by arguing that today’s stark inequalities are the result of powerful forces beyond anyone’s control (“Change Is Impossible”). The presentation will conclude by discussing the strategy of “attitude inoculation.” This psychological intervention can be used to resist and counter the 1%’s seductive mind games. In turn, this preparation can enable individuals and groups to more effectively tackle the structural violence that undermines and betrays the common good.

  • “Neoliberalism as a Conflict System: Interrogation and Transformation,” Michael Minch (Utah Valley University)

In this paper, I will define neoliberalism as more than a system of global capitalism.  Neoliberalism is also a "planetary administrative bureaucracy" (Graeber) with ideological foundations.  These foundations include fetish and theology. Additionally, neoliberalism names an attack on democratic forms.  After explicating neoliberalism, I will describe a conflict system; and then engage in in conflict analysis in relationship to neoliberalism, explicating its meaning as an ecology of forms of cultural and structural violence, that under certain conditions, produces direct violence.  The argument will pivot to discussion of how a conflict system can be transformed to a peace system, regarding neoliberalism in particular. Radical (authentic) democratization is central tot his transformation. I will argue that to build democratic forms is to build peace through constructive conflict, such that destructive conflict is displaced.  hence, neoliberalism can be displaced, through radical democratic strategies, forms, ecologies, and circulations-- which is peacebuilding and conflict transformation.

1.3 Imperfect Comrades: Reimagining More Compassionate Movements for Change - Panel

As four self-identified “scholar activists” who engage in social change work from standpoints both within communities and within academia, we propose a panel that explores the questions that center around how to bridge “distances” created by structural and direct violence to resist inequality in both the praxis for creating change and in building communities of “comrades” who experience violence and harm in diverse yet meaningful ways?  In what ways does our ability to listen with compassion and understanding across difference strengthen our strategies for change, as it enlarges our movement? In what ways does reimagining movements to be more inclusive, more just, more joyful, do we create a reflection of the world we seek to achieve?
    How are those most vulnerable to violence often silenced and marginalized by the movements that claim to seek their liberation?  How do we move away from maintaining dichotomous categories of service provider and service recipient, moral indignation and joyful resistance, activism and scholarship?   How do we begin the work building a “Beloved Community” by first doing so in the movements in which we resist? How do we find meaning and strength in bringing our authentic selves to movements for revolutionary nonviolence, and connect to the wholeness and brokenness in others?  How do we recognize and inform our work with our differences, with our whole and incomplete selves? How do we recognize and resist the systems that seek to categorize and separate us as we are often positioned to work within them for the change we want to see?

  • Emily McDonald, PhD Candidate, George Mason University

Emily’s research and work particularly investigates the role of charity and saviorism and their transformation into an economic standard, serving as a problematic resource or force of nonviolent revolutionary change.  “Charitable” resources, often through grants offered by foundations, can support movements or individuals in the pursuit of social change. In a capitalist critique, the possession of power and capital at the head of these resource-granting institutions reflect the status quo, where wealthy individuals benefit from the very systems that movements seek to resist, and ultimately transform. How then do relationships based on resource exchange between those who possess economic capital and those who seek to mobilize it reproduce the inequality they seek to address?  How do relationships based on charity reinforce categories based on difference in economic capital, and the possession of necessary resources to make change? How do contemporary forms of charity and philanthropy serve to strengthen structural violence created by capitalism, rather than mitigate it? How can relationships transform to challenge the imbalances of power in which they are created?

  • Carrie Hutnick, PhD Candidate, George Mason University

Carrie’s research and activism examines how individuals who are currently incarcerated engage in learning and relationship building with university students over an academic semester.  In college courses through the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, college students enter into jails and prisons each week to examine issues related to criminal justice alongside students incarcerated at those facilities.  Through the course students participate in shared analysis of course content, exchange of ideas and perspectives through dialogue, and reflection on their experience with one another through regular papers. Information about the criminal justice system is generally presented to college students in classrooms- distant from the intimate knowledge held individuals “inside” the prison walls.  Concurrently, those held inside of U.S. prisons and jails often lack access to educational opportunities and subsequent economic, social and political capital to participate in social change. Inside-Out classrooms serve as case studies for the possibility of bringing together people most vulnerable to be directly impacted by certain forms of violence and people less likely to be directly impacted but interested in learning.  How are these spaces for learning together preconditions for movements built on social ties across social difference and distance, across multiple perspectives on issues, varying proximity to issues, and imbalanced access to forms of capital?

  • Melissa Gouge, PhD in Sociology, George Mason University

Melissa’s research and activism addresses the role of love, joy, and “play” in maintaining movements for change through the conduit of culture.  Activists often become distinguished from members of a broader community, either through self-definition and separation or through externally initiated separation.  When activists are removed from the societies and participation in forms daily life, the potential for mobilizing larger groups of people and sustaining political action becomes diminished.  Melissa’s work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) demonstrates how social movement organization, based on both moral indignation and feelings of love and joy, generates political solidarity.  She found solidarity to derive from the interaction effects of particular, shared emotions and a culture of playfulness (often featuring son jarocho folk music, mística popular education theater, and protest art making).   How do social movements develop solidarity to become inviting rather than insular? How do they become reflective of and embedded in the communities they emerge from while remaining open to allies? How do they grow by fostering positive, life-giving experiences along with strategic political action?  How can “nonviolence” be reframed from the absence of violence to include the presence of love and joy? How can resistance be a positive way of life, as well as a way to resist systems of violence and seek political goals of social change?

1.4 Memory, Trauma, Peacebuilding - Panel

What happens when traumatic events are remembered and retold? Does this reinforce individual traumas along with their psychological and emotional effects? Individual papers in this panel explore the often-overlooked connections between memory, trauma, and sustainable peacebuilding. What are the impacts of retelling past traumas on collectives? Does the remembering and retelling of traumatic events serve to reframe the emotional and psychological response of trauma? When individuals and communities recount their experiences of trauma, do the social and psychological effects of trauma get distributed through a larger collective, thus mitigating the (individual) costs and consequences of trauma, or is the relationship one characterized by infection rather than mitigation? This session asks whether trauma and memory might be utilized as resources to build positive peace. Each paper challenges in some important way the common pejorative narrative of individual trauma as only infecting the health of the body politic. Too often trauma is perceived as only negative, but this panel aims to explore the emerging fields of post-traumatic growth and memory studies as reservoirs for positive peace, collective resilience, and social change.  

  • “Bearing the ‘truth’ of War: Memoir as a means to share the burden,” Daniel Jasper (Moravian College)

This paper analyzes a sample of writing by recent US veterans to see how the traumas of war are presented and shared with the reading public. The focus is on the retelling of events and episodes that directly confront the humanity of the perpetrator, referred to by many scholars as causing moral injury. As these events are narrated in memoirs and literature, authors show how the events have betrayed the soul of the perpetrator, and in turn, betrayed the soul of the collective in who’s name the actions have been undertaken. By writing and publicizing the trauma of war, authors are inviting the reading public to share in bearing the consequences of these actions.

  • “Mapping Collective Trauma Among Bhutanese Refugees: Displacement and the Importance of Social Spaces for Sharing,” Jeremy Rinker (University of North Carolina Greensboro)

Reporting on the work done in an innovative trauma-informed peacebuilding program with Bhutanese Refugees in the Triad of North Carolina, this paper explores the role of collective trauma in the displacement and social adjustment of refugees coming to the United States. Through focusing on the practices of storytelling and sharing through community facilitations, family interviews, and a photovoice project, issues of trust-building and post-traumatic growth are explored. How do refugees’ sense of historical collective trauma and moral injury impact their daily lives? More importantly, how can community sharing, and peacebuilding practices, be used as a pro-social response to this unique population’s high rates of suicide and community discord? This paper aims to explore practical approaches towards facilitating reconciliation and healing in traumatized communities (what has become known, though rarely defined, as trauma informed peacebuilding).

  • “Treating the Complex Trauma War Veterans,” Jerry Lawler (Greater Baltimore Counseling Center)

It is estimated that 20% of the 2.7 million Iraqi and Afghani war veterans returned from the war with PTSD. Of these, only 50% have received treatment and of those, 50% were found to have received only “minimally effective treatment.” PTSD results when trauma creates neurobiological changes to the central nervous system ossifying traumatic memories. When triggered in the present by stimuli that even remotely resemble the original trauma, the eidetic memories and their associated affective states are recalled as if happening now. The result is a constellation of anti-social sequala including anger, substance dependence, domestic violence, hypervigilance and isolation. These sequala spread out to the larger society through family violence, workplace disruption and withdrawal from civic intercourse.  And yet effective clinical treatment can obviate most of these symptoms and return the soldier to normal functioning. This paper relates the experience of a clinical practitioner located adjacent to a large military base. Traumatic memories properly remembered and processed can mitigate the secondary effects of trauma throughout the society.

  • “Compassion, Practice and Peacebuilding”, Daniel Rothbart (George Mason University) [co-authored with Susan Allen, not presenting]

In many conflict resolution projects designed to promote peace among conflict parties, the inducement of compassion among the parties is widely touted by practitioners as a useful objective for conflict transformation, especially in cases where memory of a traumatic past fuels enmity to the Other. Yet, most of the conflict resolution scholarship tends to minimize compassion-inducement as relatively minor in the transformative process. In this presentation we argue that such inducement represents a defining mission of conflict resolution practice generally and of transformation towards positive peace in particular.  Our perspective is reflective of prevailing practices. Compassion—the sympathetic understanding of the other combined with the desire for relief of their suffering—is a central objective of three forms of practice. First, we examine the discourse of international diplomacy, with special attention given to the work of the United Nations. Second, we examine conflict resolution professionals whose discourse reveals the centrality of humanizing the other as central to their work. Third, we examine the discursive practice of local peacebuilders, with special attention to rescuers of people who are targeted by militant forces in settings of genocidal violence.

1.5 What's Love Got to Do With It? Building Beloved Community in Higher Education - Roundtable

By asking, "What's Love Got to Do with It?" this Roundtable Discussion invites peace and justice scholars in higher education to share examples of how we operationalize "love" in our efforts to build beloved community –– in our classrooms, in our communities and in the world at large. The tradition of nonviolence is rooted in the practice of love, calling upon us to act with conviction on the issues we are passionate about. In sharing stories of experience, we can inspire each other to persevere in the ongoing and often arduous task of weaving beloved community in higher ed, especially in these tumultuous times.

1.6 Gun Politics, Policy & Activism - Roundtable

Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool in Parkland, FL, there is renewed hope of a sea change on gun policy in the United States. This roundtable of academics, grassroots activists, and policy makers will consider the state of gun politics in the US, assess the accomplishments and setbacks of grassroots activism, and consider the prospects for change in November.