Projecting Peace Through History and Museums

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An eprint, link below, is available, possibly for a limited period, enabling people to read Peter van den Dungen’s article online.

PVD journal cover

Dr van den Dungen sees the emergence of institutions for the study and pursuit of global peace, and peace academies for the training of nonviolent activists and mediators, in the latter decades of the twentieth century, as part of a wider “emancipation” of the notion and value of peace itself, “understood in the first instance as the absence of major war in global society and the creation of norms, practices, and institutions that would be able to banish the recourse to large-scale violence in relations between (and within) states”.

The announcement every October of the new winner of the Nobel peace prize, followed by the award ceremony itself in Oslo on the tenth of December (date of Nobel’s death), remains one of the rare occasions when the nature and meaning of peace are widely discussed in the media, though, as Dr van den Dungen points out, “a close student of Nobel and his will has persuasively argued that Nobel’s prize is essentially one for disarmament, and that successive Norwegian Nobel Committees have unwisely and illegitimately broadened the scope of the prize”, (see Fredrik Heffermehl’s book, The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted).

He notes the stark contrast of the emergence of institutions for the study and pursuit of global peace, and peace academies with the “ubiquitous presence of war and the military, especially in Western society”, the large and well-funded museums devoted to war and the military profession, the war monuments, squares and streets named after battles or victorious military leaders and history textbooks, which tend to focus on war.

While the overall message portrays the military as the protector of the nation, and war as an admittedly tragic but at times inevitable necessity – “the (hi)story of antiwar, of war resistance, of war prevention, of peacemaking and peacemakers” remains largely unknown and untold.

Dr van den Dungen sees that the forthcoming centenary of World War I, 2014–2018, could provide many opportunities for peace educators and activists to show that, using a motto of the Movement for the Abolition of War (UK), “whatever war can do, peace can do better.”

At present, histories and museums about World War I seldom record those voices that warned against such a war being unleashed, though those who died in that war are remembered in many countries around the world every year on or around November 11—Armistice Day:

“Those who anticipated the bloodbath, labored to prevent it, and urged peaceful conflict resolution (such as Jan Bloch), as well as those who refused to participate in the war (war resisters and conscientious objectors), were treated as utopians, cowards, and traitors, respectively.

“These ‘patriotic pacifists’ (in Sandi E. Cooper’s felicitous expression) who wanted to avert the disaster, however, are not remembered—neither on November 11 nor in any other way, raising profound questions about the nature and purpose of war remembrance, including in war museums”.

The paper may be read here: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/iQhZiYbDsEhjCA58rg7u/full

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