Young people, situated learning, and peace praxis at the margins of everyday life




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


In the literature, peace is often depicted in relation to conflict or war-affected areas e.g. the troubles in Northern Ireland or Colombia. By contrast, this study does not prioritise epistemologies of peace validated in spatial and conceptual spaces of ‘conflict-affected peace’, such as ‘everyday peace’ and ‘peacebuilding’. Instead, it has drawn attention to the possible polemologic vestiges of peace; and questions why peace is rarely investigated independently, and so often organised around encoded conflict narratives (Freire & Lopes, 2008; Gleditsch, et al., 2014; Stallworth-Clark, 2006; Van den Dungen & Witner, 2003).

Building on previous findings, the study has examined how young people understand peace as part of their everyday life, and how they understand their knowledge of peace as praxis. Influenced by participant action research, built around an original approach to photovoice, data were gathered longitudinally over two and a half years, from 21 inner-city young people (aged 15-24) in the Midlands, England. Using participatory photography, interviews, and dialogue groups, young people were offered genuine opportunities to take part and actively share their ideas and solutions for peace, both in and outside of the research. Throughout the study young people engaged with wider audiences speaking out about peace in their lives with their peers, families, professionals and senior management; and the researcher showcased their viewpoint to generate a groundswell of interest about peace, including curricula development, teaching, youth and community work, and consultancy.

The findings offer three key emergent themes. The first was characterised by how young people have understood peace as being more than ‘deficit peace’, characterised by non-binary peace, ahistorical peace, and change and peace. The second theme focused how young people understood peace as unreflexive and deliberate peace affirming tactics (PATs), consisting of how they spoke about their relationships to people around them, and how they are socialised into peace skills; and their deliberate and random tactics for peace as social coherence shaped by ideas of equality, respect, and social justice. PATs also highlighted the importance of participant’s self-initiated peace as self-regulatory and transformative; formulated as natural self-care, wellness, and coping. The third theme emerged from the participant's concerns and aspirations for peace and illustrated how young people understood their knowledge of peace as self-representation and advocacy tactics (SRATs). SRATs carried messages about the importance of taking action for peace, such as ripple acts, voicing, and seeking a community response. SRATs also demonstrated how young people critically confronted their issues of peace as critical literacy in the taken-for-granted-ness of their everyday language, and their everyday understanding of everyday life.

The study makes an original contribution to knowledge by shedding light on the ways young people understand peace, and what this means for the conceptualisations of peace in peace studies; and by giving careful attention to the continuum of peace as structure and agency in the minutiae of everyday life. Two, the study uncovers evidence of how young people’s knowledge of peace contributes to peace, and through a learning process in the context of research; that is, what young people do with what they know, which is rarely documented longitudinally. Three, methodologically, the thesis was influenced by Participatory Action Research and built around an original approach to photovoice (PV) to elicit young people´s perspectives and concerns. What is innovative is that it offered opportunities for participation within and outside the scope of the research, creating safe spaces for self-introspection, dialogue with peers, and for action by which young people engaged their communities. This thesis supports the idea that PAR can be a valuable tool in education, youth work, and peace work; and is ground breaking in its attempt to bring youth work, contemporary critical peace education, and public engagement together. The study has shown great potential for replicability, including engaging with significantly vulnerable communities, such as young people who are marginalised or at risk of violence.





Research Institute