Peace Psychology & The Context of Nepal


Peace Psychology

I had not known until recently that the distinct area of research and practice has emerged within the discipline of psychology called Peace Psychology. Although the recent rise of positive psychology converges with peace psychology’s emphasis on the creation of positive social conditions, it is very surprising there is no mention peace psychology within positive psychology which I have been following closely since the past few years. I have developed much interest in positive psychology and the science of well-being but the topic of peace psychology was nowhere to be found.

Peace psychology started during the times of Cold War between United States and Russia when there was a big risk of nuclear warfare. This subdiscipline developed as the need arose for understanding peace and sustaining it in the troublesome world. The ultimate goal of Peace Psychology is to reduce and prevent conflict, and to promote positive relations between groups.

Psychologists have done numerous research and by now know much about human aggression & violence and its effects but on the other side, they are very little aware of how conflict is resolved and peace is conceptualized and achieved.

I have been studying this topic for the last few days for the extensive preparation of the upcoming exams. I was looking for the information to study this topic and came across some very good articles by Daniel J. Christie and others. Christie has been actively working in this field for many years. One of the important source of information for anybody interested in Peace psychology would be “Christie, D. J., Tint, B., Wagner, R. V., & Winter, D. D. (2008). Peace psychology for a peaceful world. American Psychologist, 63, 540-552 .” This is a very good article which gives overview of Peace Psychology.

Peace psychology has been defined as “seek[ing] to develop theories and practices aimed at the prevention and mitigation of direct and structural violence” (Christie et al., 2001).

For the first time, I have been introduced to new terms “Positive peace” and “Negative peace”. Comprehensive peace involves both negative and positive peace. Negative peace means the creation of conditions that reduce and eliminate episodes of violence. Positive peace refers to the promotion of a more equitable social order that meets the basic needs and rights of all people. By coining the term “positive peace,” John Galtung (1969) emphasizes that peace is more than just the absence of direct violence (war and other conflict) but includes positive societal conditions that make violence less likely to occur. Prior to reading this, I have always thought Peace is simply peace, it is one word and it said all.

Peace psychology distinguishes between ‘direct violence’ and ‘structural violence’. Direct violence is episodic, manifests as an acute insult to wellbeing, and typically harms or kills people quickly and dramatically. In contrast, structural violence represents a chronic affront to human well-being, harming or killing people slowly through relatively permanent social arrangements that are normalized and deprive some people of basic need satisfaction. Closely related to structural violence is ‘cultural violence’ (Galtung, 1996), which refers to the symbolic sphere of our existence that reinforces episodes or structures of violence. For example, the “doctrine of just war” is a cultural narrative that supports episodes of violence by specifying conditions under which direct violence is justified. Jihad could be considered good example for this in Muslim religion or the war of Mahabharata in the ancient times in Hindu religion. “Galtung (1975) also found it useful to differentiate three kinds of peace activities—peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peacebuilding —as differing and complementary dimensions of conflict management and peace work. Peacekeeping is a response to an acute situation which typically involves the containment or de-escalation of violence and the enforced separation of would-be combatants. In contrast, peacemaking is focused on arriving at settlements or agreements within a conflict situation. Peacebuilding is a more proactive attempt aimed at healing a postconflict society and reducing structural violence in an effort to prevent conflict and violence from erupting in the future” (Christie et al., 2008).

The Context of Nepal

Nepal has been through one of the worst course of armed conflict in its history started by UCPN-Maoists in 1996 February which caused deaths of over 13,000 people nationwide. One of the crucial issues in understanding the People’s War is that the origins of the Maoist violence have deep roots in the nation’s poverty, unequal division of wealth, ethnic, regional and caste discrimination, disappointment with state governance and violent state responses to the Maoist movement. In 2006 April, the comprehensive peace agreement was signed between Maoists and the government of Nepal. Prime Minister Koirala on behalf of the Seven-Party Alliance government and Chairman Prachanda signed peace accords ending the decade-long People’s War. However, the peace process has come under the greatest risk as the constituent assembly has failed to make satisfactory progress in drafting the new constitution for the country. At the same time, one of the main issues of the peace progress remains the reintegration of PLA (People’s Liberation Army) of Maoists which has remained unresolved and this will surely prove to be one of the major hurdles in the Nepalese politics. United Mission in Nepal has been monitoring the issue of Maoists combatants to assist the peace progress but it has been very less instrumental to help in resolving this issue.

It is important to contemplate how the research and knowledge of peace psychology can be helpful in assisting the peace progress which is in great risk at the moment in Nepali politics. I would like to draw attention of senior Nepalese psychologists and people involved in conflict management to this burning issue. One of the reasons most often cited behind the lack of progress of Nepalese Psychology is that it has not been able to contribute/intervene in social and national issues. Maybe this is one good opportunity at hand!!

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One thought on “Peace Psychology & The Context of Nepal

  1. On Behalf of Prof. Subba….

    I got this reply from him to the email I had sent him with this post. The reply is very informative and adds much knowledge to this post so, I am sharing it here as well. Thank you Shishir Sir.

    ” Dear Sujen

    It is indeed good of you to communicate with others on Peace Psychology. People who are less familiar about Peace Psychology will definitely find it interesting. I appreciate your effort.

    Though many psychologists trace the history of peace psychology from time of William James it really emerged after second world war and gained popularity among the academicians in the ninties. Psychology as a discipline has expanded in a huge way in its scope and field. In 1980s and 1990s many psychologists discussed about the fragmentation and centrifugal trend in psychology. Other took such expanding horizon of psychology as a natural outgrowth of maturation of psychology as a science. Peace psychology is also a natural outgrowth of maturation of psychology. Psychologists like political scientists and others also witnessed two World Wars and cold (post-cold) war period. The ideological war based on economy, liberal democracy and other hordes of issues has shifted to clash of civilization. Political scientist Samuel P. Huntington argue that the primary axis of conflict in the future will be along cultural and religious lines. Psychologists have made significant contribution in this line. Peace psychology is an extension of this contribution. It is rapidly becoming an important sub-discipline.

    Under the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FoHSS) of Tribhuvan University more than 32 varieties Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines are introduced. There are 22 Central Departments under this Faculty and Psychology is one of them. Central Department of Psychology (CDoP) has its own need and priorities in introducing psychology courses. It fulfills both individual and professional needs of Nepalese as well as the urgnet need of the ‘developing country’ like Nepal. There are other disciplines which have opened opportunities for students interested in specific areas of psychology. Among many psychologies peace psychology is also taught in one of the departments of FoHSS.

    Department of Conflict Peace and Development Studies (CPDS) is one of the departments of FoHSS. TU, where a paper on psychology in the 4th semester is introduced. CPDS was introduced as department three years ago. One of the faculty members of CDoP contributed in the development of CPDS psychology course. The psychology paper deals among other topics with peace psychology. CPDS students are aware of contribution of psychology in the field of Conflict and Peace. However they are trained to look at conflict and peace from different perspectives to gain a ruch, integrated, holistic view on conflict and peace. The first batch of students who have completed their Master in CPDS are engaged in Govt. and INGOs and actively contributing in peace and development. The psychology course in CPDS is taught by CDoP faculty member. Materials on psychological approaches in conflict and peace are found the CPDS library. Many prominant, academicians, authors, and researchers expert in Nepal situation are engaged in teaching and research activities in CPDS.

    CDoP faculty member/s are in contact with Daniel J. Christie and others who have contributed in Peace Psychology. Articles by Daniel J. Christie and others are available at the CDoP or CPDS. Books on Peace Psychology are also available. I appreciate your interest. Psychology students who are interested to contribute in peace and conflict area can join CPDS. Students from different institutions and faculties have been applying for Master degree in CPDS. CPDS selects (entrance examination and interview) only about 30 students out of 200 or more applicants. CPDS is located at Baneswor.”

    Shishir Subba,
    Professor of Psychology,
    Central Department of Psychology (CDoP),
    Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

    email received on: Fri, Aug 6, 2010 at 8:41 AM

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