Saturday, February 25, 2012

Conflict Resolution and the Scholarship of Engagement

I'm currently editing a new book, Conflict Resolution and the Scholarship of Engagement (forthcoming 2012 from    Cambridge Scholars Publishing).  Here's a snip from the intro!  

As the field of conflict analysis and resolution continues to grow, scholars and practitioners increasingly recognize that we can learn from one another. Theory must be informed by practice and practice must draw on sound theory. Above and beyond this lies a further recognition: without at least attempting to actually engage and transform entrenched conflicts our field cannot hope to achieve its potential. We will merely remain in a more diverse, multi-disciplinary ivory tower. This edition breaks new ground in explicitly connecting the Scholarship of Engagement to the work of conflict resolution professionals including those in the academy, those in the field, and those who refuse to choose between the two. The text explores a wide variety of examples of and thinking on the Scholarship of Engagement, from participatory action research to peace education and from genocide prevention to community mediation and transitional justice.

The Scholarship of Engagement is a model of scholarship that bridges theory and practice. North Carolina State University (NCSU) defines it as follows: “Community engaged scholarship encompasses scholarly activities related to research and/or teaching that involve full collaboration of students, community partners and faculty as co-educators and co-generators of knowledge and that address questions of public concern.” Barker (2004) offered a similar definition in his recent taxonomy of the Scholarship of Engagement : “Reacting to the disconnect between academics and the public, in somewhat dialectical fashion scholars are finding creative ways to communicate to public audiences, work for the public good, and most important, generate knowledge with public participation” (123). He continued, clarifying that scholarly engagement is, “…research, teaching, integration, and application scholarship that incorporate reciprocal practices of civic engagement into the production of knowledge” (124). As we will see below, this notion of the reciprocal co-production of knowledge represents to our minds a key synergy between the academic framework of the Scholarship of Engagement and conflict transformation. Particularly in contexts where one or more conflict party has been oppressed or marginalized, conflict transformation practitioners and scholars risk reproducing that marginalization if we imagine that we hold objective answers that we can bestow upon conflict parties (see for example Lederach 2005, Cloke 2008). Rather, the process itself of generating solutions is fundamental to building the confidence, skills, capacity and trust with the other party needed to transform the root political, economic and socio-cultural drivers of the conflict. Similarly, as the above suggests, those committed to the Scholarship of Engagement embrace an epistemology that is harmonious with conflict transformation. The co-creation of knowledge, with respect both to initial setting of the agenda and priorities, as well as with respect to the ultimate “product” created, is essential to the values of this academic framework. This harmony between conflict resolution and the Scholarship of Engagement, of course, is a central reason for and theme of this volume.