There were some topics that I forgot to mention in my last blog post that I would like to add on now.
The first that I’m going to touch on now is the “dark shadow” theory of stereotyping that I heard from Dr. S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana. This identity/psychological theory regards how we come up with stereotypes during the process of “othering” another group of people. Dr. Kadayifci-Orellana theorized (during our presentation at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa last week) that many stereotypes are in fact our own projections of fear onto another group. What we fear most within ourselves, and the feelings of negativity or loathing that we have towards the self are directed outward at another person. Thinking about this topic, I realized that perhaps this is truer than most would prefer to admit. If we can reasonably accept that the vast majority of people have similar insecurities and fears about life in general, than we would see similar stereotypes around the world. Seemingly, this is true. If you travel to different cultures and are able to peer into their darker sides, the stereotypes and assumptions that cultures make of other identity groups are often the same. “Lazy” is a very common stereotype, and is used throughout the world to demean another populace. It has been used by some South Sudanese against Somalis, some Germans against Greeks, and some white Americans against black Americans. This commonality of insult could be an indicator of just how similar cultures around the world are in their construction of identity. The perceived weaknesses within ourselves are projected upon an entire “other” that all have this trait, which would fit in with Dr. Fathali Moghaddam’s (also of Georgetown fame) work on “in-group differentiation, out-group homogenization.”
The second topic is a bit more practical, and something I think that all Western peace workers ought to be concerned with, and that is how we bring our work back home. While it is all well and good to work abroad, assisting others in bringing about peace in their communities and learning as much as we can, we must also be concerned with how to advocate peace at home. Although the West has not seen the level of internal violence that the developing world has, we have our own faults as well. The so-called War on Terror is a conflict that, although it is debated just who started it, has seen most of its expansion through Western, particularly American, action. How does an American peace advocate promote a more peaceful foreign policy? Must we begin at the grassroots and cultural level? Do we begin at the structural level of government? Perhaps I have not yet learned enough here (in fact that is probably the case), but I cannot imagine myself looking a survivor of 9/11 in the eye and saying they have to forgive those who perpetrated the massacre. How do we bring about peace when in certain sectors, violence is engrained into the culture and institutions of a country where authorities such as the police and courts are considered legitimate? I believe that these are some of the issues peace workers must confront, in both the developing and developed world.