Ritual and Symbol in Peacebuilding

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* Serves as a guide to using ritual acts in peacebuilding efforts
* Abundant with examples of symbolic acts that aided the peace process

Conflict is dramatic. In theater, literature, story telling, and news reporting, it is a powerful mechanism that draws attention, heightens the senses and evokes emotion. Schirch argues that peacebuilding has the potential to do just the same.

Examples of peacebuilding often center on the serious, rational negotiations and formal problem-solving efforts in conflict situations. Schirch argues, though, that what truly bonds adversaries and helps achieve peace are the symbolic, non-verbal ritual acts—shaking hands, sharing a meal, showing a photograph of a loved one. Yet these are often overlooked as deliberate components of peace negotiations.

Ritual and Symbol in Peacebuilding underscores the importance of incorporating symbolic tools, including ritual, into traditional approaches to conflict. Ritual assists in solving complex, deep-rooted conflicts, and helps to confirm and transform worldviews, identities, and relationships. With theories and language to explain the symbolic dimensions of conflict, this text will be useful to scholars and practitioners active in the diverse field of peacebuilding.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As a long-time peacebuilder I have used rituals and symbols for years without ever putting a name to my actions. This book has opened my eyes to the power, the importance, in fact to the absolute necessity of consciously incorporating rituals and symbols into the peacebuilding process."

"Lisa Schirch's work is vital in setting conflict analysis and resolution theory and practice, as well as diplomacy, in a new direction."

"Wonderful and long overdue. . .fills a glaring gap in our professional peacebulding literature. This book should be on the shelves of every practitioner, researcher and trainer working in this field."

"This book... helps to make visible tools that are often used unconsciously or without purposeful intent by peace practitioners throughout the world. Her real-life scenarios show parties in conflict being transformed by engaging together in the practice of ritual. Schirch provides optimism for the future of peacebuilding practice in a world with many intractable conflicts."

"Does more than point to the power of ritual and symbolism. In a highly readable style, she parses ritual and symbol into useful analytic and practical components that may be used in setting the stage for peacebuilding opportunities and events."

"Not merely another scholarly contribution to an ever-growing field of research [but] an exemplary case of moving the debate in a new direction."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565491953
  • Publisher: Kumarian Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/2004
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Schirch is an associate professor of peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University’s Conflict Transformation Program. She received her doctorate in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University. A former Fulbright fellow, Schirch has fifteen years of experience consulting with a network of strategic partner organizations around the world. Her peacebuilding experience includes facilitating interethnic dialogues, designing training programs for women in peacebuilding, creating alternative security strategies, and working as a mediator and trainer.

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Table of Contents

1 Peacebuilding dramas 3
2 Understanding ritual and symbolic acts 15
3 Material, social, and symbolic dimensions of conflict 31
4 Finding ritual on a map of peacebuilding 57
5 Designing the stage : peacebuilding spaces 65
6 Peacebuilding pantomime : negotiating without words 79
7 Forming and transforming worldviews 97
8 Forming and transforming identities 123
9 Forming and transforming relationships 137
10 Dancing in the dragon's jaws : designing peacebuilding rituals 161
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