Affective Pieces to Effective Peace(s)
Tim Archer, Nov 7, 2018
For this post, I wish to briefly discuss the concept of affective methods of peace research. As discussed previously, peace could be considered as subjective and not simply taken for granted. Rather than seeing peace as an idyllic static state to be achieved, peace may better be understood as something that is personal. Speaking with others about peace was highlighted as a strategy to not only reflect on ones own ideas of peace, but also acts as a way to be together peacefully. In this light, peace is a relational term, constructed in the moments where we are with each other.
However, if peace is subjective, a question remains: how can we plan for effective interventions? While being effective in our practices is important, sometimes this may be a misleading, and even harmful, preoccupation for research and programming. Instead, a turn to affective methods may provide useful alternatives for the subjectivity of peace.
Effective vs Affective
A turn to definitions reveals that “effective” means “successful in producing a desired or intended result”. Affective, however, means, “relating to moods, feelings, and attitudes” (Oxford online Dictionary, accessed 20th Oct 2018). What this might denote is that while “effective” emphasises measuring desired results, “affective” indicates influencing the dispositions of others.
Affective Methods of Peace Research
How does this relate to peace research? While we hope that peace research generates improvements in effectiveness for interventions, another often missed focus is how those involved can be affected – or moved – by the research. This focus incorporates emotional and relational affects rather than simply reporting ‘facts’ about effectiveness of the desired outcomes.
Rather than seeing research as reporting effective change in practice, affective research seizes on the opportunities provided to it and sees what we might be able to achieve in the moments we interact through the research itself. Affective research aims to stir emotions of those involved and elicit reflections that take them to new understandings and revelations about others and themselves. These emotions move beyond the rational mind — that most peace pedagogies overly rely upon and are limited by — and affect the body, heart and soul in ways that lead to different ways of knowing. Accessing these different knowledges opens up otherwise untapped sources of understanding that may evoke personal transformations, even if only momentarily. It is through the use of personal, elicited, and evoking interactions that deeper and more sustained change might be created as we are brought together in reflexive co-construction of meanings.
This affectiveness transcends ideas of effective success that are often based upon essentialised ideologies that do not necessarily take into account the unique realities of each individual. Affective methods allow and embrace personalised and subjective explorations that offer new insights for the individual in that time and space. The belief is that by being affected we are drawn deeply into ourselves revealing new awareness and understandings. We become changed through the interaction. In relation to peace(s) we hope that such methods of affective peace research seek to engage in ways that bring a different feeling of peace relevant to the individual rather than simply convincing or converting that individual to assimilate the ideas of peace being promoted. It is hoped such affective methods of research may even carry more effectiveness for engaging in peace, towards peace(s).
Types of Affective Peace Research
There may be many pieces to affective peace research; many ways one can affect. However, it should be noted here that affective peace research is as much a philosophy as well as a methodology. It is held on the belief that we change (and are changed) through the interactions and stories we encounter. This belief allows us to create methods of engagement with each other that seek affective interactions.
Methods that continue to be used within CPERG, for example, include arts based methods and new materialisms. These include interactive research and representations that use poems, art, multi-media, theatre, personal storytelling or music, all designed to make visible that which was previously invisible. This does not mean that research substitutes its robustness and focus on effectiveness, but that by using different ways to interact, represent and present the information and findings, the audience is drawn into more than just mental spaces, but heart, body and even soul. It is this that might be the most effective way peace can become effective.
Peace could be seen as an affective as well as an effective endeavour. We hope that our work at CPERG is able to not only bring findings and insights that assist thinking and working on peace, but may also go towards affecting peace(s). While I have tried here to explain affective peace(s), the irony that this is a rather rational (unaffective) post is not lost. While it might not entirely encapsulate the meaning of affective peace research, I end with an affective piece to suggest potentially effective methods of affect.
Wildpeace by Yehuda Amichai
Not the peace of a cease-fire
not even the vision of the wolf and the lamb,
as in the heart when the excitement is over
and you can talk only about a great weariness.
I know that I know how to kill, that makes me an adult.
And my son plays with a toy gun that knows
how to open and close its eyes and say Mama.
without the big noise of beating swords into ploughshares,
without words, without
the thud of the heavy rubber stamp: let it be
light, floating, like lazy white foam.
A little rest for the wounds – who speaks of healing?
(And the howl of the orphans is passed from one generation
to the next, as in a relay race:
the baton never falls.)
Let it come
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace.
David Tim Archer is an Education PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge focusing on masculinities and peace pedagogies. A member of Hughes Hall College, he considers himself a research-practitioner and has worked in both post-war and domestic peacebuilding settings for over 12 years. Tim has a wide range of professional interests from peace education to conflict sensitive systems approaches to peace work and research. He is an experienced education, mediator and restorative practitioner as well as a proponent of alternative epistemological approaches to peace work and research. Tim is currently interested in approaches to engaging men in dialogue about masculinity and peace based on concepts of encountering, resonance and reflexivity. You can connect with him on Linkedin.