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10/14/2010: Pushpa Iyer, MIIS

Hate, Harmony and Homo sapiens: Zones of Peace (ZoP) amidst War

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—The first installment of the Middlebury-Monterey Lecture Series for the 2010-11 academic year will be held on October 14, when Pushpa Iyer from the Monterey Institute of International Studies travels to Middlebury to give a talk entitled "Hate, Harmony and Homo sapiens: Zones of Peace (ZoP) amidst War." Her lecture will take place at the Robert A. Jones '59 House conference room at 4:30 p.m.

Pushpa Iyer Web

Pushpa Iyer, from MIIS

Pushpa Iyer is an assistant professor in the conflict resolution program at the Graduate School of International Policy and Management at MIIS in Monterey, Calif. A graduate of Gujarat University in India, Iyer received an M.B.A. from the University of East London in England and a Ph.D. from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in Virginia.

Before coming to the United States for her doctoral studies, 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. She has consulted for different NGOs and institutions including the World Bank. Her work has taken her to India, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Before joining the MIIS faculty, she taught various courses in conflict resolution as an adjunct faculty member at George Mason University.

"The field of peace and conflict studies has found through real world examples that making peace is as natural as making war for humans."
— Pushpa Iyer

The Middlebury-Monterey Lecture Series was established to promote shared expertise and education through the exchange of faculty speakers as the two institutions deepen their integration. The exchange of faculty visitors between Middlebury and Monterey brings together the strengths of a liberal arts education with the applied knowledge and professional skills of a graduate school. During her two full days on campus, in addition to presenting her lecture, Iyer will, among other activities:

  • attend a class, Introduction to Comparative Politics, taught by Jessica Teets, assistant professor of Political Science;
  • meet with Sarah Stroup, visiting assistant professor of Political Science, to discuss NGOs in conflict situations;
  • attend a first-year seminar on "The Philosophy of Human Rights," taught by Steve Viner, assistant professor of Philosophy;
  • have lunch with students, faculty, and staff at Wonnacott Commons;
  • and attend the Howard E. Woodin Environmental Studies Colloquium Series, "Responding to Environmental Crisis: Focus on the Gulf."

Professor Iyer's description of her lecture follows:

"In a world full of war, violence, and tensions between nations, groups, and individuals, theories of human behavior are being re-examined and new ones created. Biological and psychological theories of innate tendencies of competition and aggression in humans, although much debated, have held their place. So do the theories advocated by sociology and conflict studies on Homo sapiens, considered as interdependent social beings and whose aggressive behavior, these scientists believe, is learned and evolves in any given social context.

"However, theories that explain peacemaking among humans are less explored in conflict studies. Many of these theories of harmony came originally from biologists who studied higher order primates. Subsequently and more recently, the field of peace and conflict studies has found through real world examples that making peace is as natural as making war for humans.

"That humans would naturally want to make peace derives further relevance in conflict studies because the field emphasizes mitigation of conflict as the sure and first step toward resolution. Conflict resolvers can therefore take a lot of assurance from the fact that those mechanisms for peace making exist within the warring communities themselves.

"This desire and need to keep harmony, to have peace, is the drive behind communities, institutions, and nations coming together to create zones of peace amidst war. What we call zones of peace are usually territorially defined, although there are instances where the concept is more abstract, such as a whole community of people being declared as a zone of peace. In a zone of peace, there are, usually through an agreement, certain acts that are prohibited and/or other acts that are encouraged.

"From the demilitarized zones in Aceh, Indonesia, and in Zimbabwe, to the community zones of peace in Mindanao, Philippines, to children as zones of peace, examples of the types and instances of zones of peace abound. As part of a 'zones of peace' research project, empirical research has been conducted in Sri Lanka, Aceh, Mindanao, and Myanmar.

"Using case studies from Colombia, Yugoslavia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Aceh, Zimbabwe, and El Salvador, this presentation will evaluate zones of peace created during and after war."

Iyer's lecture is sponsored by the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest, the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, and the Graduate School of International Policy and Management at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Additional lectures in the series, one more at Middlebury and two more at Monterey, are scheduled for the 2011 spring semester.