We had our penultimate session yesterday with the ever brilliant Dr Pushpa Iyer. She challenged us to think about the elitism inherent within the Peacebuilding field, an elitism I think runs throughout academia. As a Ghanaian post colonial scholar, I am keenly aware of how certain epistemologies are delegitimized while others elevated and portrayed as an apparent universal standard worthy of emulation. I recognize that academia has functioned historically as the ideological apparatus that has sustained missions of oppression and colonization. Presenting Africans as this ‘barbaric Other’ without a set of moral and legal codes justified the Christianization and colonization of the continent. Presenting women as irrational beings incapable of self determination justifies the violence that is continually acted out on their bodies and spirits. Academia can-because of the ideas that gain currency-can literally change the world.
However, the goal of yesterday’s session was not to lambast academia, but rather, call attention to the interesting fact of power dynamics. Who gets to produce knowledge and why? What types of knowledge are validated and which ones are excluded?
Peacebuilding work requires extensive engagement with different cultural communities. However, what happens when the cultural framework of the community is in contradiction to that of the individual Peacebuilder? What happens when ideas endorsed by academia do not find currency in a particular context? Dr Iyer asked us to think about the ways culture and subject locations influence our understanding of self care.
I am beginning to recognize that crucial to being an effective Peacebuilder is the ability to navigate both high and low context cultures with sensitivity and intelligence from a clearly defined ethical framework.