Read a summary of our most recent event: Stef’s book launch

On 22 February, Dr Stef Pukallus launched her new book ‘Communication in Peacebuilding: Civil Wars, Civility and Safe Spaces’ to members of the Hub.

In her opening remarks, Dr Pukallus described that the task of communicative peacebuilding is enormous and addresses the question of how to turn enmity into co-citizenship in post-civil war settings. In short: how to build civil peace which she understands as peaceful cooperation. Peaceful cooperation is the communicative performance of three categories of civil norms: assent to civil peace, substantive civility and capacity building and citizen competencies.

Stef, founding chair of the Hub, spoke about the importance of what she labels ‘safe discursive spaces’. A safe discursive space  (SDS) is where the move from enmity to co-citizenship can happen, can instantiate itself – this is their purpose. Although SDS have an invariant purpose, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – they can be temporary or permanent, physical or virtual and they exists across the communicative spectrum of civil society. It is the skill of ‘discursive civility’ practised in these spaces that enables safety and makes the spaces safe for communicative engagement between former enemies. The book includes case studies of how peaceful cooperation and discursive civility are practiced in and through news journalism, theatre, music and memorials and how all of these can represent and be understood as SDS.

Following the presentation, Stef was interviewed by Professor Stacey Connaughton, Director of the Purdue Policy Research Institute and the Purdue Peace Project. Stacey began by noting the importance of research into communicative peacebuilding especially looking at the developing situation in the Ukraine. Addressing the book, Stacey praised Stef for her methodological inclusivity and clear ability to integrate classic and contemporary philosophy, international relations, discourse studies, sociology and more.

Professor Connaughton said:

“Her writing and integrative thinking mirrors for me what it takes to address “wicked problems” like violent conflict – bringing together a wide range of perspectives, lived experiences, and knowledge and engaging in courageous conversations that lead to meaningful action.”

“Dr. Pukallus acknowledges that there are many different levels at which peacebuilding can take place – local/community, country, intra-state. This manuscript is interested in intrastate, intergroup (civil) war and peacebuilding yet accepts that peacebuilding may manifest at national and/or local levels.”

According to Stacey, the book also raises the important question of who should be considered a “peacebuilder”. Though Stef uses the term generously in her book, she reserves the title for those who live and perform the communicative behaviours that produce long-lasting and sustainable civil peace.

Professor Connaughton also said:

“[Dr Pukallus’] manuscript offers a useful contribution to the peacebuilding field by attending to the various ways in which communication contributes to, or can detract from, civil peace…Dr Pukallus invites us all to consider our responsibility in building peace…this is a must-read for academics and practitioners interested in the relationship between communication and peacebuilding.”

Stacey questioned Stef on the challenges of using terms like “civility” and “co-citizenship” which have become central to a number of major and ongoing societal disputes. Stef responded with a call for academics and practitioners to be “brave and courageous enough to reclaim and defend the term “civility” and to assert that it is actually about building capacity for peaceful co-operation.” One audience member added that in addition to producing a highly original piece of scholarship, Stef’s contribution can be applied to many different civil and political settings in the modern world.

We are grateful to Stacey, Stef and all Hub members for their time and we look forward to inviting you to other Hub events soon. For further updates, please follow us on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Also check out Stef’s latest guest contribution to Image&Peace.

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