A Quick Primer on Communication and Peace Education

Peace education remains a lofty goal. Some certainly consider it naive but not those who know better. Communication plays an essential role.

Apart from research about interventions into other circumstances, most work about interventions into conflict is described in the online forum and listserv of the Rockefeller Foundation’s funded Communication Initiative (http://www.comminit.com). The foundation of this area of research is the pioneering development communication research that first began with UNESCO’s commissioned studies of National Farm Radio Forums in low-income states.

Communication and media studies inform the workings of peace education (PE). Communication is about the generation of meaning. This simple definition follows a weak constructivist line of reasoning in which meanings are generated by the interpretive practices of individuals who confront and work to make sense of messages. This interpretive process is operational whether the messages are verbal or nonverbal, or delivered through mediated or face-to-face interaction. The idea of “communication” is subject to cultural implications. Culture is a dynamic interaction where knowledge and experiences are not passively received but actively constructed. Culture may define groups of people in a work place such as office culture, or groups of people in a state—e.g. civic culture. From a cultural standpoint, these people’s knowledge is the result of a cultural context. Meanings in cultures develop on the basis of distinct ways of interpreting symbols and artifacts. Thus, issues such as whether or not communication has occurred, and definitions of “good” and “bad” communication are all dependent on cultural practices. Cultural groups, whose ethnicity, race or religion become invoked for political reasons, namely ethnopolitical groups, are again, those groups that experienced the most conflict. PE, in turn, requires understanding the interpretive practices of the “other” group and learning new ones. The basic challenges of PE cannot escape the centrality of the communication process to conflict resolution; and, moreover, these challenges can clearly benefit from the power of communication technology to shape and distribute effective messages.

Communication and media studies scholars seek to assess, or recommend methods for improving the impact of contact between groups at the face-to-face level and evaluate the impact or capabilities of contact on achieving their desired outcomes. For example, these scholars would evaluate whether use of strategic messages (whether in a face-to-face setting or via a radio program), actually leads to a particular outcome and if so, relate how that outcome helps to manage some aspect of ethnopolitical conflict. While PE scholarship has been sparse, a plethora of assessments and evaluations about interventions into other contexts have been conducted that readily contribute knowledge about how to create and study peace promoting interventions. These areas of scholarship cover matters of cognitive development, health, and voting behaviors The reader looking specifically for communication and media studies research about interventions into conflict will find most of it organized under the category communication for social change.

The above is from the essay below which I suggest as a excellent starting point for examining the relationship between peace education and communication.

Donald G. Ellis and Yael Warshel(2010). The Contributions of Communication and Media Studies to Peace Education, In G. Saloman and E. Cairns (Eds.) Peace Education (pp. 135-153).

The article can be accessed here




About Donald Ellis

Professor Emeritus at the University of Hartford.

Posted on January 7, 2016, in Peace and Conflict Politics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on A Quick Primer on Communication and Peace Education.

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