Blog 10. Examining gender.

In Sujata Moorti’s classes, we discussed how gender is a construct consisting of gender roles and gender scripts that are culturally conditioned, the intersectionality of gender with the other categories that divide people, and the relational, contextual quality of gender performance.

I have prided myself before in understanding these concepts, but I had actually come to the realization before this course that I was not as enlightened as I thought I was, that I had not made mental space for gender fluidity in other people because I was so clear in categorizing myself as a woman. So I examined my own attitudes during this session, and realized something interesting: even though I agreed that gender roles were fully constructed and not natural or intrinsic to us, I still felt like there was something about me that was intrinsically female! But Sujata’s point was that culturally-conditioned gender roles and norms are all there is in regards to gender – in fact, scientists have been unable to prove that there is anything intrinsically male or intrinsically female. Cultures differ in what we think are appropriate roles for men and women.

I think what my experience illustrates is that gender roles are so deeply ingrained to feel natural to the extent that, even if I reject that having the female sex makes me naturally follow my culture’s female gender roles, I still feel like something about being a women is natural to me. I have long been aware that this is the case, and in fact I have felt relieved by it, thinking how it makes life easier when you feel comfortable in your gender role. Even as I reject notions that being a woman means I must do certain things and not do others, I still fundamentally embrace the notion of gender as intrinsic: I am not really seeing the construct, just trying to change the range of activities acceptable to women so that I will not feel constrained in my role.

A basic realization that emerged from the feminist movement, especially the third wave, is that just because women are female does not mean they have anything in common. It can be convenient to convene women’s groups based on the idea that the people will connect just because they are female, or to claim solidarity with women around the world just because they are also female. But other social categories – race, class, etc. – play a role in dividing people as well.

This realization could be helpful to me by driving home another point Sujata made, which is that women need to be included in community development and peacebuilding process, not because they are intrinsically better at peace but because they are part of the community, and everyone must be included. In fact, I think a fundamental tenet of peacebuilding is that everyone must be included. You cannot build a partial peace. Inequality is often a symptom of structural or cultural violence.

Almost there…….

Today we almost reached the finish. We have the last session about peace and reconciliation method. It attracted me as I have made conclusions how the space for peace can be helpful for traumatized people, the case referred to Sierra Leon war. Due to this brutal war a lot people was injured and traumatized.  Nothing could be done for this people but heal their traumas and pains that was able to perform throug truth telling and confession. I found the film very sad and even emotionally heavy.  People, who were affected by the atrocity of war were brought to bonfire, both sides victims and  perpetrator of violence, and organized a true telling process that was a way forgiveness and confession respectfully.  I found it very difficult to forgive such a brutality and continue living with the same person, as well the confession-Not easy to declare in front of your community that you have committed this unprecedented crime. In my opinion both require boldness and wisdom. This method of healing was probated largely in Sierra Leon and adjusted to cultural context. I found out that peace building is very personal and it begun on local level.

At the end of the day we analyzed our main insights that we have gathered during these three weeks, it was extremely interesting and valuable to make conclusions and share reflections regarding the peace. What have learnt during this three week? It would be difficult to count and define. Peace is complicated, it overlaps almost every sphere of human activity. Moreover, it has very sensitive and personal levels. I will never forget that father Cedric’s words if you want to build a peace you need to have peace first inside you-Self purification

Even though I always lack the time and was concerned about the task that I have to fulfill on time, I learnt to deal with extreme situations and be more organized. I once  more was assured that when one leaves his comfort zone, there begins the growth and real changes. It was really beneficial for me as I have obtained new skills and it helped me to develop my stamina.

I am really glad that I had an opportunity to be a peace building program participant and get the knowledge, that I will use in practice. I highly appreciate that I had an opportunity to acquire new friends and establish new contacts.


Gender and Peace

I had an honer to listen and absorb very valuable information regarding gender issues in relation to peace.  Mr. Sonjata Moorti has represented gender issues in regard to peace.  I loved her outfit and manner of her gender expressing.

Today the gender, women right are very buzzwords and understood in different angels. The session determined the difference between gender and sex. Since the gender is social phenomena, and is possible to be altered through the time. However,  sex is more than male and female. I loved to discover that women can be very valuable for peace and not because I am female and have this advantageous but it clearly made me to see my role as woman in peace building. Through the session we have learnt that women is more prone to bring peace and harmony in the society. She can establish different values and assets for peace. This derived me to the past when I made my first presentation in University about women leadership issues, where I highlight the role of women in social life and society.

Since international society decided that women is someone who’s participation and involvement in peace building  is significant, still this is not equally and comprehensibly developed in other countries, where the violence and brutality is common toward women. We have worked in groups on real cases that affected me and made me to think about a perpetrator of violence, that might be a humans or culture as a structural violence, however it could be both. Here I have to mention about negative and positive peace, the latter relies on justice and rational appeal. It is difficult to achieve as requires a braveness and risk, not all are capable to deal with society’s  stereotypical restrictions. I admire the women who has broken these boundaries and went beyond them far.

Blog 9. Reconciliation and forgiveness.

I’m writing this on our lunch break between class with Libby Hoffman, founder of the organization Catalyst for Change. We just got to learn about Fambul Tok, the reconciliation initiative in Sierra Leone created after the civil war there ended. I’m inspired to write because I understood a few things better this morning.

First was forgiveness. I have never forgiven the people who have harmed me, and I never thought I would. I was even starting to think that was the way it had to be, that perhaps there was no forgiveness possible, sometimes. Watching a film that had been created about Fambul Tok gave me a visceral experience of forgiveness and made me realize that it is necessary. How that might look for me, though, I do not know.

We were struck by how easily forgiveness seemed to happen in these Fambul Tok ceremonies around a campfire. Part of us felt incredulous: could it really be possible that the victims had forgiven the perpetrators? The victims described to the large group gathered around the fire what had happened to them and then the perpetrator acknowledged they had done it, explained why they had done it, and bend down, asking for forgiveness. The forgiveness was granted. I could feel in myself how much the people wanted to forgive – but really, I was feeling in myself how much of a relief it would be to forgive. I could feel how resentment, anger or hatred against someone else is a wall you have to create in yourself, and how forgiveness involves taking down that wall, which allows your energy to burst forth, whole again.

Libby extrapolated off what I had shared of my experience, saying that it sounded like I was talking about how when we have been hurt, regardless of whether we can reconcile with the person who harmed us or not, we must fine a way to release that internal wall and be whole again in ourselves. This is certainly true for me. I feel exhausted by what I am holding on to, tired of it, but how do we convince ourselves that it is safe to let down our guard, how do we reconcile?

We will go further into it this afternoon, but Libby described how the way Fambul Tok is administered and organized and coordinated and carried out – how the process is structured – such that it is a trustworthy process for all involved. A series of steps, from engagement with districts and forming teams with people from the district to engaging with villages and forming teams with people from the villages, ensures that the process is real and authentic. All engagements involve the four questions of do you want to reconcile? how do you want to reconcile? what resources do you already have to do it? and how can we walk with you in the process? serve to create space for the villagers to make their own healing.

Yet later on we discussed how in the Sierra Leone context, forgiveness was necessary because there were no real other options. Victims were living amongst their perpetrators, so what choice did they have to move forward? They could not move away.

And sometimes I think forgiveness is not healthy, or not possible. There was a reason why that wall was put up against another person – because they had hurt you and you needed to project yourself. It feels like by letting down that guard, you could be hurt again. Practically, we know that there are situations where a person or a situation does not change and will always be dangerous. We learn from our experience.

Re-conceptualizing Space in a Sea of Islands

Image result for sea of islands

The first day of the last week was an experience with geography, social constructs, and space. Prior to the beginning of the session we acknowledged the space we’ve been settling on within the indigenous territory of California. This entire session was fascinating to me because of the social constructs and idea of history and naturalism that envelop so much of geography but also the social sciences. We explored the frames of space and how spatial organization and structures play a role in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. During this whole session I became really interested in different conceptualizations of space and how that conceptualization influences a group’s worldview and culture. And of course, I brought it back to myself and it highlighted a lot of the reasons I am doing what I’m doing.

Image result for oceania map

This past year, as I’ve continued my self-decolonizing journey I have become more aware of my conceptualization and utilization of space. During our session Professor Herb introduced to our cohort the concept of framing locations and people based on the space they inhabit. The concept of a spatial barriers are physical and non-physical and are used to isolate or separate communities from each other or from themselves. This really related to the essay I read in the spring by Epeli Hau’Ofa, an Oceania scholar and author of “Our Sea of Islands”. In it, Hau’Ofa compares the western and indigenous frameworks of space, and how much your conception of space influences your conception about relationships to other things within that space. In western society, the phrase and concept that is used more often than not when talking about Oceania is “the Pacific”. The Pacific, from a colonial framework, defines the space from a bird’s eye view as islands in a sea. The conceptualization of space becomes what is inhabitable and what can be utilized, and becomes measured by the amount of land available within the Pacific. This conceptualization leads to the mindset and assumption of isolation, of smallness, of dependency – small islands surrounded by big sea cannot develop, the primary challenge is isolation, the region is then carved to gravitate small islands towards larger powers, is dependent on larger nations for support and necessities. Over the last few years, I have begun to actively stop using the word “Pacific” when describing or locating my people or region, because to me, it’s only reinforcing the historical colonial narrative of smallness and isolation and need to anchor to the big fish along the rim. From the perspective of indigenous Oceania, the opposite is actually the case. Oceania, a term that to me represents the indigenous conceptualization of the region’s space, sees the region not as islands in a sea but as a sea of islands, and the distinction to me is a powerful one. Oceania was peopled and settled by voyagers who had understanding of the currents and pathways within the region, and used it to create a wide and complex network of culture, trade, and community over thousands of years. Thousands of islands connected by currents. The island does not end with visible land, but continues through the networks and connects all the lands and people together, creating what Hau’Oli refers to as “the Blue Continent”. This conceptualization of space that does not end with the land of the islands re-frames the narrative of islands as small and isolated and dependent towards one that is connected, vibrant, sustainable, and developed.


We use space in settler colonial societies to frame resources towards the benefit of the settler, to erase and separate communities that for generations have interacted with each other in different forms and outlets. As I continue with my time in a colonized space on a settled land within the framework of a system of settler colonialism, being able to identify the barrier spaces, whether they are physical like the fences and gates that run through communities and indigenous lands, to the nonphysical such as the carving of Oceania on a map, is so important and critical as I develop my own perception and identity within conflict resolution and peacebuilding.



How Does One Transform?

I think that’s one quote that can stop anyone in their tracks. I think it’s a quote that should stop everyone in their tracks.

I’ve been doing some deep soul-searching this summer. I am not sure if my soul-searching has necessarily been super intentional, but there’s been a force driving me to deal with some tough topics. I encountered an instagrammer/blogger named Layla Saad who was doing a 28-day “white supremacy” challenge throughout the month of July. I gathered it would be a good idea to do this challenge because of how uncomfortable the idea made me! Her topics were not always easy to swallow:

You & White Supremacy

You & White Fragility

You & Cultural Appropriation

You & Black Men, Women, and Children

You & Optical Allyship

You & White Feminism

You & White Saviorism

And the list goes on…

I have to be honest though, I failed the challenge in the sense that I didn’t post on Instagram in the conversations like I was meant to. Every day I looked at her posts and I pondered them. I tried to ask myself my real feelings regarding the topic. I tried to dig deep and admit truths to myself I had never realized. Some topics were easier for me to process than others, and I did try and process every day, but I didn’t do the challenge in the way I was instructed. I was a bystander. Therefore, I failed it. I am going to blame the lack of time to participate due to my summer schedule, but her comments on people’s posts also really intimidated me. She was open to calling people out and it seemed like unless someone admitted to being deeply racist or to be a supporter of white supremacy, they failed in responding to the prompt. That was hard for me. It is really hard to think of yourself in a kind light, and then to shift 180 degrees and force yourself into a negative light. To reckon yourself with such terrible acts of violence. I was not raised in a home that incited violence on anyone due to their background or race, and I kept using that as my defense! I was raised Adventist and I was taught to love. But the fact is, I was raised in a system that does incite violence, which means that my home and church did as well.

I know that seems confusing and I go in circles and circles admitting fault but then defending myself. In our session with Sujata she quoted Audre Lorde and said, “We need to learn to not be the oppressor before we can transform the world.” Audre’s quote and Sujata hit home for me. We all have seeds of the oppressive, and I’m in the midst of accepting that. I’m in the midst of relinquishing the fight of defending myself as good, and relinquishing to the fact that I have hurt. That I have benefitted from a system that oppresses others. I need to transform myself inwards by dissecting my understanding and education that I’ve received of the world, in order for me to be able to hold any true transformation on that same world.

Sujata gave us the example of Charlotte Bunch, a white, American feminist author, who was involved in the Vienna Tribunals and has made many notable contributions to the feminist field. Yet once, she said there was a global sisterhood. She was quickly critiqued at her blind thinking that women of color around the world could actually feel like sisters to white women. Was Charlotte well-intentioned? Of course. But did it come across terrible and hurt people in the end? Yes. I prodded Sujata with a question regarding this. “But how do I avoid what she did? How do I find my place? Do I ask questions? Listen?” And she left me with this advice which I want to leave you:

“You’re going to make blunders. You’re going to hurt people on your way to learning, but that’s what you must do. And just because people critique you and knock you down, you need to keep going. You need to continue the work to understand and to continue learning. That is the only way to transformation.”

Give Me My Space

If I remember correctly, my best friend Melissa Carr quit talking to me for almost 6 months. In these 6 months of pain, hurt, and silence, I learned one of my greatest life lessons.

I have always loved to talk. I have always loved to talk to all sorts of people for countless hours on various subjects. I have always loved to connect and share my experiences when I hear about someone else’s experience. When I was 16, I thought by sharing my experiences when I heard someone else’s experience, I was empathizing and making them feel supported. To my grand dismay… I actually was stealing their space. Of course, I didn’t know to define it with that language until now, but that’s what I was doing. Melissa let me know this loud and clear one day, and she let me know that by ending our friendship. I think this was probably one of my most painful times in high school. I also didn’t quite get it. “Amanda, you always make it about you!” she said. “Was I?” I thought. I rejected this idea. “No, I do not!” I retorted. Melissa didn’t fight back. She let it be, and I watched one of my best friends walk away.

Me in the middle left, Melissa in the middle right, on a high school trip to France

I am not quite sure what exactly occurred for our friendship to reconvene, but I do know that I thought on this topic for months before I was able to approach her with an apology.

Do I not share my experiences?

Do I not empathize?

How do I connect with people?

I became very conscientious in all my social interactions. If I found myself directing the conversation towards me, I quickly reacted and asked the person I was conversing with another question about their situation. I began to notice how easy it could be to steal the conversation. I began to take notice of people’s reactions. I read their faces and their body gestures. I began realizing that sometimes people need to just talk, and not be talked at. I began to understand that sharing of an experience was not always an invitation for advice or a response, but it was a simply a desire to be heard.

Over 10 years later and I still am working on this. Over 10 years and I am just learning the language to define what I was doing all those years ago. Guntram Herb introduced to us the idea of dominating spaces and it clicked in my head that all those years ago (and most likely still at times) that I have dominated space. That I have taken space from others that needed that space.

Me still dominating space as I push her out of the picture

Melissa Carr is still one of my closest and dearest friends. Over the years, I have thanked her multiple times for giving me this lesson. I doubt she knew the impact and the importance it would have on my life, and of course, I didn’t either. But it was just another life experience that has made me who I am today, and is preparing me for who I need to be in this field.

Gender in All that We Do

Dr. Sunjata Moorti came in to speak with us about the role of gender, specifically, as it relates to peace and conflict. She had us introduce ourselves with a bit about our relation to gender, and it caused me to think back to my senior year of high school where I put together a final presentation on gender roles for my favorite class (one that fused language arts and social studies for all 4 years within a community where freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors were all mixed in classes together). I highlighted several advertisements that reinforced ideas that boys should be builders, loud, rambunctious, and like things like guns and cars, while girls had toys that almost always tied to motherhood (e.g. baby dolls, my little pony, etc.) or life in the domestic sphere (e.g. easy-bake ovens). I chose this topic because I am (and was then) a feminist, and I strongly rejected the notion that gender was a binary and static. As I really developed an understanding of in my undergraduate career, gender is on a continuum and fluid. This means that everyone has traits that would fall into the categories of “masculine” and “feminine,” and no one is a perfect image of one of the two, and it also means that ones conceptualization of gender changes over time and with new experiences. This doesn’t mean that everyone “changes” genders, but rather that their gender will mean (slightly or significantly) different things, and could be expressed very differently throughout one’s lifetime. In thinking of gender, I also remembered the strong influence I gained from an inspirational feminist to me, Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality” to describe the interconnected nature of various aspects of our identities (e.g. race, gender, sexuality, etc.). Since coming into contact with Crenshaw’s work, I have internalized this concept and applied it as a lens to view the world, especially in my work promoting social justice. As we discussed in class, this concept was also crucial to the 3rd wave of feminism in the US from the 1980s-2000s, which recognized that there is not singular category woman, and that intersections of all aspects of one’s identity shape their notion of “woman.”

Development also had different stages of how it addressed “the woman question,” beginning by focusing on women as mothers through fertility control and maternal health,  moving into a focus on economic empowerment and income generation, then a recognition that changes in women’s lives also affect men (moving from focus on “women” to focus on “gender”), and finally a focus on girls, with education being the primary method of “delivering equality” under a neoliberal framework. I enjoyed our discussion of how feminists put human rights as a central tenet of peacebuilding, and focus on transformative justice over restorative justice. I had been familiar with the differences between retributive and restorative justice before, but I am now more partial to using the term transformative after asking “what are we restoring? and should we be restoring that?” This matches perfectly with the differences between conflict management (like retributive justice), conflict resolution (like restorative justice), and conflict transformation (like transformative justice); the whole idea of seeing a conflict as an opportunity to change unjust structures and systems of power means that you are seeking transformation, rather than an easing of tensions and violence (management) or end to the particular conflict without a change in the structures that caused it (resolution).

Making Space for Peace

We were able to gain a geographer’s perspective on peacebuilding from Dr. Guntram Herb, who built on Johon Gaultung’s notion of peacebuilding as creating self-supporting structures that remove causes of war. He did so with a focus on scale, place, and space. With any conflict it is important to view things from multiple angles, and scale speaks to that, emphasizing that if you only look at it from one perspective, you will either not have the detail to see important nuances and intricacies, or you will have some things beyond what you can see from one position. For a peacebuilder, this can involve a stakeholder analysis and view of what the problems are from each persons perspective, then try to synthesize all of this into your vision for transformation. “Place” is also important to consider as a peacebuilder. A sense of place that people feel when they have emotions and meaning tied to a location–an example being Jerusalem being a holy city for numerous faiths, and a site of contention as a result. This highlights an important aspect of place, which is that it is not about something with a clear inside and outside, but rather a process.

A third and crucial element of geography and peacebuilding is space. Space can be topographical/measurable, as is typically thought of, but there is also relative and perceived space. Relative space being based on linkages, so, for example, I will feel like I am very far from home if traffic is heavy and I’m exhausted, even if I am only a few miles away; or I would feel that swimming across a pool is easy, but not if the pool had great white sharks and I had a cut on my leg. An example of perceived space would be the difference a space holds in the day compared with at night, which can then have more of an impact based on ones identities. In its essence, space is the “meeting place where relations interweave and intersect.” Space can therefore be used to control–such as segregation practices in places like the United States and South Africa, or forced relocations of Uighurs in China or Adivasis in India. In relation to segregation, space can act as a barrier–this led me to immediately think of 8 Mile Road, which separates Detroit from wealthier cities and has historically been a racial line that used to be strictly enforced to keep black people south of it, within Detroit city limits. However, space can also be crafted as a facilitator of peace, and this can happen in everyday spaces where people interact.

Discussing this led to a video project, where I collaborated with Travis to tell the story of the Chinese immigrants who started Monterey Bay’s fishing industry and California’s squid fishery after establishing a village on Point Alones in Pacific Grove. This story is mentioned in the signs along the Coastal Recreation Trail, but not in much detail, and especially without detail on the fire that burnt the entire village to the ground in 1906. The success of these immigrants from China was soon envied by white residents of the peninsula, who, reacted with direct and structural violence. They enacted local laws that prevented fishing during the day for Chinese immigrants, constantly dehumanized them, and eventually burnt the village to the ground, laughing as the Chinese residents fled. Although we aren’t able to “prove” this, many similar Chinese villages along the coast suffered the same fate after discrimination from whites. The story we told of this event related to modern-day Monterey, which is still mostly white, and reveres people like John Steinbeck, author of Cannery Row. On the Recreation Trail, this Steinbeck quote next to a mural of white people sitting together stands out, speaking of the working people as they leave: “the dripping, smelly, tired Wops and Chinamen and Polaks, men and women, straggle out and droop their ways up the hill into the town and Cannery Row becomes itself again-quiet and magical.” The notion of the “magic” only being present when the poor and unwanted leave is seen today in the police sweeps that push homeless people away from streets in Downtown Monterey and away from everyday spaces where they could meet the eyes of tourists. The main point we were driving at was that Monterey’s Rec. Trail could be transformed from an everyday space that overlooks and essentially erases history–leading us to repeat it, into one that facilitates dialogue around the true history of the success of one of the major industries for the Bay. This assignment and our discussions with Dr. Herb were very enlightening on how I could utilize space as a peacebuilder!

Violence: A Terrible Disease

The first day of our last week of the Summer Peacebuilding Program started with Dr. Joseph G. Bock on health challenges and peacebuilding, where we discussed violence as a disease. Violence is considered in this framework because, like an infectious disease in populations, it will form clusters, has the ability to spread—usually in waves, and it involves transmission from human to human. One benefit to addressing violence as a disease rather than a moral issue is that moral issues have various interpretations and sources of moral authority. By addressing it as a disease, you can address it systematically; going for the larger clusters of violence, preventing it from spreading, and as a result, diminish the likelihood of further transmission. Transmission can be accomplished by witnessing violence or having violence enacted upon you, and there is plenty of evidence to show that those who’ve experience violence in one of these two ways are more prone to reproduce it.

One example of addressing violence as a disease was in Chicago’s Ceasefire Program, now referred to as CURE Violence. Dr. Bock spoke of this program and the difference it had to Operation Ceasefire that started in New York. The Operation Ceasefire is a more punitive approach, coming from a criminal justice perspective on violence prevention that requires multiple levels of government coordination. On the other hand, CURE Violence is a more restorative approach, addressing violence as a public health concern, seeking to interrupt transmission, identify and change the thinking of highest potential transmissions, and change group norms.

We first came across “Operation Ceasefire” and the practice of call-ins with Julie Reynolds Martinez, who explained how federal agents (e.g. FBI, ATF, DEA, etc.) show gang members who have been identified with large amounts of violence the evidence they could use to arrest them and their fellow members but provide them an opportunity to change. The local law enforcement, along with community members, will then speak of how they would prefer these gang members to be better citizens than in prison, and show them that they could be welcomed. This combination of threat of punishment and an avenue for communal acceptance has shown success in some cities but ended after only 1 call-in in Salinas. I was able to ask the Chief of Police in Salinas about it, who explained that not all of the agencies were willing to work together in this process and keep it going—ideally, they keep up with these gang members to track progress, and since it didn’t happen, she is hesitant to start it again until all the necessary parts are in place. She added that she plans on addressing this to be able to implement the program in the future. Perhaps there is a chance that both this approach and the CURE Violence approach could benefit the city, if there is effective collaboration and a clear consensus on goals and how to achieve them.