Visualising Peace project launches new online bibliographic resource

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The Visualising Peace bibliographic resource compares how different disciplines study peace.

‘Visualising Peace’ is a ‘Vertically Integrated Project’ involving twelve undergraduate students based in different Schools at the University of St Andrews. Directed by Dr Alice König and supported by PG Mentor Jenny Oberholtzer, this project seeks to extend the work of the Visualising War project by examining how war’s aftermath, conflict resolution and peace-building are conceived. Our aim is to study different habits of imagining, understanding, representing and working towards peace, and we are particularly interested in analysing how different narratives and ideas of peace have evolved and gained influence over time.

As part of our research, we have explored the different ways in which the topic of peace is studied in an array of academic disciplines. This year’s Visualising Peace team alone has students from nine subject areas: Classics, Comparative Literature, English, Film Studies, History, International Relations, Psychology, Social Anthropology and Sustainable Development. Between us, we have selected and analysed over 150 sources, ranging from academic journals, books, articles and commentaries to blog posts, podcasts, and reports by NGOs. Our survey is far from complete and we plan to keep adding to it as our project develops over the coming months and years. Though Visualising Peace is still in its infancy, we wanted to share our findings early on to help others – whether experienced peacebuilding practitioners or simply those with an interest in better understanding the concept of peace – to appreciate the diversity of approaches taken by different fields of study.

Our goal is to promote more interdisciplinary cross-fertilisation and also more dialogue between university-based academics and professionals working in the wider peace-building sector. We have found some fascinating overlaps between different disciplinary approaches, but also lots of contrasts, and we think that different fields of study have a lot to learn from each other.

For example, some scholars in Modern History and Classics have tried to carve out a distinctive space for ‘peace studies’ within their respective disciplines, while connecting the study of peace closely to the study of war. In other subject areas like Sustainable Development and Social Anthropology, there is often more overlap between peace, gender and other social studies, and less emphasis on the separate study of peace per se or on military contexts. Comparisons between IR and Psychology have helped us understand how differently peace can be conceived if it is studied from the perspective of individuals and intergroup relations, rather than from the perspective of governments/the state. And we have also learnt a lot about Western biases and the need to learn from a greater diversity of voices through different approaches in Comparative Literature and Film Studies, among other subject areas. You can read some of our reflections in our growing series of blogs on Visualising War in Different Disciplines.

Our online bibliographical resource does not promise to cover all aspects of peace studies in each discipline we look at; but we hope that users will find it a helpful starting point as they conduct their own research and learn more about the different ways in which peace has been, and continues to be, studied in different disciplines. We encourage everyone to approach the sources we highlight critically; to consider where they are coming from and whose viewpoints they reflect; to think about the habits of visualising peace which different methodological approaches promote; and to consider what perspectives might be missing from our current selection.

We welcome feedback and hope that users will suggest lots more sources for us to analyse and include over the coming weeks and months!

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