Center for Conflict Studies Launched
The Monterey Institute celebrated the launch of the Center for Conflict Studies (CCS) with a weeklong series of events November 6-9, culminating with the Center’s first annual conference, “Religion and Gender: Identity, Conflict, and Power.” The Center is the brainchild of Professor Pushpa Iyer, a respected scholar and practitioner in the field of conflict studies.
“Conflicts are inevitable phenomena, often viewed negatively because of their propensity to turn violent,” notes Professor Iyer. “We at CCS instead view conflict as a vehicle for change.” Iyer hopes to accomplish this evolution in thinking by focusing on the study and application of the right tools for managing conflicts effectively and positively. The CCS also provides students with the opportunity to engage in hands-on projects, accomplishing meaningful work in the field while at the same time enriching their academic experience.
The conference led off with an inspirational address from keynote speaker Hauwa Ibrahim, the attorney who successfully appealed the infamous case in Nigeria in which a woman was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Other speakers and panelists shared first-hand observations on religion and gender from a variety of cultural perspectives. One student who spoke on a panel, Abhilasha Sharma (MPA ’12), told the audience about the unusual marriage traditions of the Newar women in her home country of Nepal, who first marry a piece of fruit, then the sun, and finally a man. By marrying the fruit, which in their belief system represents God, women are empowered, because they can never be considered a widow—an important symbol in a Nepali culture that stigmatizes widows. “I never thought such a simple tradition could be so meaningful,” said Sharma.
The Center’s programs revolve around three focus areas: understanding conflicts, developing tools and skills to resolve conflicts in a non-violent manner, and peacebuilding in post-war societies. Programs offered by the Center include a certificate in conflict resolution, research fellowships, education and training, publications, and the annual conference, all with opportunities for student involvement. Professor Iyer’s vision for the Center is to have it be “a place where scholars, practitioners, researchers, and policy-makers can come together,” providing both an impetus for positive change and a platform for academic and professional opportunities for Institute students. For more information, visit go.miis.edu/ccs.