Spring 2010 Stories
After a War: The Complexities of Peace
EWS Program Examines the Realities of Peace-making
By Katharine Langsdorf
Peace is a simple ideal but a complex reality. This spring, Evergreen Evening and Weekend Studies faculty members Helena Meyer-Knapp and Nancy Anderson will teach After a War, an eight-credit program which focuses on the difficulties societies and people face when peace is on the agenda. How do people transition from a war-like mentality to positions of peace? Is this always possible and what is needed to successfully do so?
Both faculty members have the backgrounds necessary to explore these questions and lead students to their own discoveries. Meyer-Knapp has been researching the conclusion of wars since the late 1980s when she was working on her Ph.D. in interdisciplinary political studies at The Union Institute. In 2003, she published Dangerous Peace-Making, a book that looks closely at seven conflicts from the last century to the present and the realities of peace making.
“A must-read if you’ve ever asked how societies choose war and how they finally decided to make peace,” wrote Hal Spencer, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, of Meyer-Knapp’s book.
Anderson contributes to the team with both her medical degree, which she earned at Columbia University, and her master’s in public health from the University of Washington. In addition, she was active in post-war reconstruction, serving in Mozambique as a district doctor for around 150,000 people from 1988 to 1989. The country’s Ministry of Health sponsored her initially for the first year, then she stayed for the next four years, working as a public health consultant in Manica province. She stayed through 1994, working through the last four years of a war between the Mozambican government and rebel forces, as well as the first eight months post-war.
“I am motivated to understand whether, when and how people may come to peace with each other after years of sanctioned murder and betrayal,” Anderson says. “I am convinced that our future as humanity depends on this understanding.” To bring this understanding to their students, Meyer-Knapp and Anderson will be focusing on five case studies: Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Korea and the U.S. Civil War. Students will examine the key essentials to peace after war, such as health problems, diplomatic relations, and restoration of a country’s infrastructure. Students will also attend a two-day conference in Seattle on war, recovery and public health, which will include a presentation by Paula Gutlove, M.D., deputy director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies and a colleague of Meyer-Knapp.
As we look toward the end of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the return home of thousands of veterans and the multi-dimensional transitions necessary when a society is working toward peace, the academic program After a War is particularly relevant. “Post-war recovery is the quintessential interdisciplinary problem,” Meyer-Knapp adds. “It cannot succeed unless all strands of the recovery process are being attended to at the same time.”
Katharine Langsdorf has been a student at Evergreen for two years. Her academic focus is history and the development of societies. She is studying Conceptual Physics, Statistics, and Religion and Society.