Associate Professor; Director, Center for Conflict Studies
Before coming to the United States for her PhD studies, Pushpa Iyer worked to secure the rights of the poor and the marginalized in Gujarat state, India through holistic development programs. Her commitment to bringing peace between the divided Hindu and Muslim communities in Gujarat laid the foundation for her subsequent work and academic interest in conflict resolution and peace building. Iyer has over 20 years of experience in the field of conflict studies and has consulted for different NGOs and institutions including the World Bank on projects in India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Africa. She specializes in identity conflicts, non-state armed groups, civil wars, peace processes, and peacebuilding in post-war societies. She is the founding director of the Institute’s Center for Conflict Studies.
Courses offered in the past four years.
- Current term ●
- Upcoming term(s) ○
Decolonizing Knowledge for Racial Equity
Western colonization gave rise to Eurocentric, patriarchal, capitalist, Christian, and heteronormative paradigms that lead us to believe, advocate for and retain an epistemic hegemony. These centuries-old epistemic hegemonies, today, dictate our pedagogy, inquiry, and praxis when it comes to the acquisition, management, and dissemination of knowledge. This is because knowledge, more often than not, is generated by and within these systems of global inequalities and they, in turn, reinforce various forms of hierarchical, unequal and discriminatory structures built on race, gender, class, sexual, caste, ethnic, religious, linguistic and other identities. The implications of learning under hegemonic epistemologies (for example, in institutions of higher education) on various careers - such as development, peace and conflict, education, environment and related disciplines - is that we start with the belief that we have the answers to the world's most pressing problems leading us to re-colonize the colonized through our impositions. In this course, as a first step, we will question our own epistemologies and then, we will use decolonial (understood as going beyond post-colonial) theories to understand how knowledge is acquired, legitimized, and disseminated. Further, we will explore how decolonized knowledge can challenge power structures whether in the classroom or when working in the field.
It is highly recommended that students take this course in conjunction with the "Racism and Policy" course offered in the Fall but not necessarily in any particular sequence. Additionally, students might want to follow up on this course by taking "Dismantling Whiteness, Capitalism, and Patriarchy for Racial Equity" also offered in the Spring.
Spring 2018 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop
Dismantling Whiteness, Capitalism, and Patriarchy for Racial Equity
Critical Race Theory places racial identity at the center of conflicts while the intersectionality approach supports the understanding of race conflicts as the unraveling of our complex identities. These identities of class, race, gender, sexuality, physical attributes, nationality, and the likes are definitely intertwined (intersectionality) but they are also often separate conflicts that can broadly be explained as three pillars (paradigms) of an unequal structure - the big global structure - and the three pillars being Whiteness, Capitalism, and Patriarchy. Race conflicts are largely within the paradigm of Whiteness but often intersect with the conflicts under the structures of Capitalism and Patriarchy. The conflicts within each one of these three paradigms and between them, raise questions about how we approach or how we should approach intersectionality when it comes to race conflicts. Borrowing from Critical Race Theory and from theories in Conflict Resolution, students in this class will explore creative approaches to race conflicts that exist within an oppressive structure but also link to the other unequal, unjust and discriminatory structures.
It is highly recommended that students take this course in conjunction with the “Racism and Policy” course offered in the Fall but not necessarily in any particular sequence. Additionally, students might want to prepare for this course by taking “Decolonizing Knowledge for Racial Equity” also offered in the Spring.
Spring 2018 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop
Stories are an integral part of human life; they inform people’s emotional lives and are a cultural and social expression for societies around the world. Stories can reflect and help individuals and communities to examine their values, stereotypes and prejudices. The ability to tell stories can be empowering for marginalized communities by giving them the space to tell the truth and to put on record their demand for justice. For communities in conflict, stories often serve as an opportunity to deal with their past and as a platform to raise awareness about their suffering. As much as telling stories is natural to humans, storytelling skills to improve communication and listening can be learned. When storytelling is effective, it functions as a creative tool to transform conflicts while providing a voice to those who are voiceless. In this class, students will learn to use stories (telling, listening and developing) to build greater understanding and respect among individuals and communities in conflict and thus lay the foundations for effective change – social, cultural, institutional and political.
Spring 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2017 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop, Spring 2018 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop
In this course students will explore the mutually reinforcing relationships between theory, research and practice. They will map, review and connect the major theories they have studied at MIIS and beyond. They will explore how theories emerge and develop in the scientific community. Through mapping and review of their own research and practice experiences, students will then develop their own theories of practice. By the end of the course, they will be able to present a portfolio of their informed approach to some of the global challenges, which they hope to tackle as they step into the ‘real’ world.
Students may take this class only in their last semester at MIIS.
Spring 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS
Many in the U.S. experience race in much of their social, political and economic interactions. While conversations about race are taking place at various levels and through different forums, it is just not enough. And the ones that are the loudest in demanding that we not only bring these conversations more to the forefront but that we also develop tools to deal with race related conflicts are students and academics in educational institutions, especially those of higher learning.
Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) is no exception. There are calls for acknowledgment of explicit and implicit racial bias in academic life and the need for deeper conversations about diversity on campus.
In order to encourage more sensitivity and develop better competency in dealing with race-related issues, the Center for Conflict Studies (CCS) has launched the program “Allies at MIIS”. The program invites students interested in being trained to become an ‘Ally for Racial Equity’. As an ally, the student participant will undergo a couple of sensitivity training sessions, will engage in research related to the topic of racial equity, engage with peers on campus and will present their work to the broader MIIS community through a variety of forums.
Fall 2016 - MIIS, Fall 2016 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop, Spring 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2017 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop, Fall 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS
Conflict is a complex phenomenon and its study requires a systematic analysis of its elements and its context. This includes identifying and understanding the root causes, attributes and dynamics of conflicts. Strong analysis lays the ground for the resolution and transformation of conflict and for the development and choice of intervention processes and tools.
This course gives students an introduction to the field of conflict analysis, resolution and transformation and is intended to provide a solid foundation for further inquiry and application. This course will provide students the theories, models and conceptual frameworks required for a holistic understanding of conflicts and will familiarize them with the existing terminology and concepts in the field. It will also introduce them to various intervention strategies, the skills and tools available for intervention, and help them recognize the assumptions upon which these tools rest. Using the reflective practice model and through classroom simulations, students will develop their personal ‘toolkit’ for intervening in conflicts.
Importantly, the course will connect theory to practice through application of models and frameworks, research and case studies analysis of events and interventions from all over the world.
It is hoped that students will leave class with more questions than answers. If this happens, the course will have met its intended goal of provoking inquiry into issues previously unquestioned.
Fall 2016 - MIIS, Fall 2017 - MIIS
In today’s global context it has become necessary to study the impact of war on women separately from that on men because of the changing nature of warfare which has created many new roles and therefore new experiences for women in war. This course primarily focuses on studying war as a gendered phenomenon in which the experiences of women, as combatants, victims, and peacebuilders are explored. Through an inter-disciplinary approach, students will learn to analyze the intersections between women (as an identity group), and culture, security, nationality, and peace in periods before, during and after war. The use of case studies (group projects) in this course will help connect the various aspects of gendered warfare. Further, the political, social, cultural, policy, and legal measures initiated to mitigate the negative impacts of war on women and to promote a more prominent role for women, as peacebuilders and decision-makers, will be examined.
Fall 2017 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop
Today, students of almost every social science discipline (conflict studies, development, security studies, and related disciplines), engage in research that involves gathering information from primary sources. Primary data is what transforms research from an abstract state to a more ‘real’ relevant body of knowledge. For the research-cum-practice student seeking to get their hands dirty - to experience first hand the realities that inform theories and concepts - the need to prepare for fieldwork has become a must. How does one conduct oneself when on the ground? How does one represent themselves to people who in effect are sources of data? How does one handle the information gathered and present it to their broader academic and professional community? What role does one’s personality, culture, ethics, values play in data gathering and reporting? What does one do in highly emotional and sensitive contexts? How does one observe, analyze and understand the physical, society and cultural aspects of the context in which data is being collected? And most importantly, how does one maneuver the context to achieve the goals of fieldwork without compromising on core pre-determined personal ethics and values.
This course will engage students in a discussion on responsible data gathering. It will highlight the importance of a self-reflective approach in fieldwork where one is prepared to test hypothesis, challenge oneself in the face of new information including being proved wrong. It will also seek to explore how one reconciles personal values, ethics and emotions with fieldwork goals. Students will work through scenarios and have an opportunity to experiment in data gathering and reporting in simulated settings.
This course may be a pre-requisite for J-Term immersive learning courses led by this instructor.
Fall 2016 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop, Fall 2017 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop
We will study structural racism in this course by exploring the role that race and racism - experienced as disparities and discrimination - has played in making our social, economic and political structures unequal. Policy decisions then made by these unequal and therefore unjust institutions can only lead to furthering racial inequity. Even if deliberate policies are made to foster racial equity, the implementation of policies by those very same unequal institutions is fraught with hurdles. It results in a flawed policy in practice that does not really change ground realities. How can policies and their implementation break free from the structural inequalities that shape and execute them? This question expresses the biggest challenge in our work to end racism.
In this course, race will be understood more broadly than just skin color; it will include gender, sexuality, nationality, religion and other identities on which people are discriminated. Students will learn to analyze the sources of racism in policy decisions and will explore the impact of deliberate policies that tackle racism on broader race relations in society.
Fall 2017 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop
There is growing acceptance to the argument that alienation of non-state armed groups does not bring an end to violence. A question being increasingly asked by third party interveners, policy makers/ analysts and scholars is: ‘how to effectively engage with such groups?’ ‘Understanding’ groups is the first step when attempting to intervene in the conflict. In order to do, one must examine the leadership of the group. This is central to any political analysis. The leader and the nature of leadership creates and to a large extent influences every other aspect of the group such as ideology, goals, leadership, structure, culture and commitment. Students will examine the nature of leadership in one non-state armed group and comment on the implications for those choosing to engage with that particular group. Specifically, the students will research on: (1) Profile and Personality of the Leader/s; Origins of Leadership (2) Type of Leadership (3) Source of Power (4) Maintaining Authority and Control/Ensuring Follower Compliance and Commitment (5) Dealing with threats, change and Crisis Management (6) Negotiating with Leadership/Group - Implications for Practitioners, Policy Makers and Scholars.
Fall 2016 - MIIS
Areas of Interest
Iyer’s current research interests include: non-state armed groups, challenges to peacebuilding, gendered security in the U.S. military, identity conflicts, civil wars, peace processes, non-state armed actors, and South Asia.
- PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
- US MBA (International Management), University of East London, UK
- Post-Graduate Diplomas in Human Resources Management, Organizational Behaviour, Sacred Heart University, Luxembourg and Academy of Human Resources Development, India
- Bachelor of Law (Labour Laws), Gujarat University, India
- India Bachelor of Commerce, Gujarat University, India
- Co-authored chapters: “The Nature, Structure and Variety of Peace Zones” and “The Collapse of Peace Zones in Aceh” in Zones of Peace edited by Landon Hancock and Christopher Mitchell. Kumarian Press. Feb 2007.
- “Peace Zones in Mindanao”. Case – study for STEPS project of Collaborative for Development Action Inc. 2004.
- “Martyrdom in Context: Implications for Conflict Resolution”. In Koinonia Journal, Vol. XVI Princeton Theological Seminary Graduate Forum, 2004.
- “Zones of Peace: A Framework for Analysis”. With Dr. Landon Hancock. In Conflict Trends, ACCORD, South Africa, Vol. 1 March 2004.
- “Was it a Genocide in Gujarat?” – Religion and Peacemaking Bulletin - The United States Institute for Peace. April 2002.