We spend a lot of time in this course discussing conflict, security, and the military. And to be fair, the focus of many disciplines, including but not limited to communication, history, and geography, are often focused on a more violent or war-driven rhetoric, paying little attention to nonviolence and peaceful rhetoric. Megoran (2011) specifically states that “geography is better at studying war than peace.” History books tend to focus on wars and conquest, and not peace. Often, peace is discussed as a result or the conclusions of those wars. Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy? Is it because the majority of our academic and media-based experiences are filled with these images that they become the norm and peace or nonviolence is the exception?
While this is the predominant rhetoric, I’m certain at least a few individuals who promote a more peaceful rhetoric come to mind, including (but certainly not limited to) the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
But, before deep diving into this dichotomy and what it means, we must start with the simple question: what does peace even mean? If we go back to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, peace is:
“A state of tranquility or quiet”
This tranquility; however, should not simply be seen as the absence of war or violence as is often insinuated. Peace can be both positive and negative in nature (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2021; Megoran, 2011). This absence of war or violence is “negative peace.” Positive peace, on the other hand, is more about cooperation and “the integration of human society” (Galtung, 1964). The Institute for Economics and Peace (2021) describe eight aspects of positive peace, which include:
- well-functioning government,
- sound business environment,
- acceptance of the rights of others,
- good relations with neighbors,
- free flow of information,
- high levels of human capital,
- low levels of corruption, and
- equitable distribution of resources.
Thus peace isn't as simple as describing the lack of war or violence. Megoran (2011) maintains peace as a process, fragile, ever changing, and potentially easily broken. It is something that must be maintained and continuously worked towards, as enumerated in Megoran’s article. These notions of a definition of peace beyond the lack of war are not often discussed or researched, and thus is perhaps a research area that geographers should invest more heavily in.
Institute for Economics and Peace. (2021). Positive Peace Report 2020: Analysing the factors that sustain peace. 17-27.
Institute for Economics and Peace. (2021). Positive Peace Report 2020: Analysing the factors that sustain peace.
Megoran, N. (2021). War and peace? An agenda for peace research and practice in geography. Political Geography, 30, 178-189.