ALMA Reviews Blog: Piecing up Peace in Kashmir: Feminist Perspectives on Education for Peace
Piecing up Peace in Kashmir: Feminist Perspectives on Education for Peace
Dr Shweta Singh (South Asian University) and Diksha Poddar (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
Published in Feminist Solutions for Ending War, ed. Megan MacKenzie and Nicole Wegner. London: Pluto Press, 2021.
This chapter introduces the potential of feminist peace education to bring positive, long-term and transformative changes in conflict situations. The two authors of the chapter are based in Delhi: Dr Shweta Singh is a senior assistant professor in the Department of International Relations, South Asian University and Diksha Poddar is a research scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and junior fellow at Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP), India.
The authors move beyond previous conceptualisations of peace research (in the form of education for peace and critical peace education) in their chapter by centring the analysis on the everyday lived experiences of youth and violence. Unlike other forms of peace education, a feminist educational approach to peace, as discussed in this chapter, pays close attention to the complex power relations that are embedded in conflict situations. Educational interventions shaped by feminist perspectives, especially from the Global South, prioritise ‘local dynamics, community voices and histories of colonisation’ (p. 64) to question power relations as opposed to providing ‘singular solutions’ to ending war. Pedagogical practices entailed in such an education, as the authors explain, are based on the ‘politicisation of experience’ (p. 64).Through examples from the Kashmir conflict (2008 onwards), the authors show how pedagogical practices shaped by a feminist engagement with peace can provide space to express grievances, which provides a significant replacement for militarised resistance. The case of Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old militant killed by the state security forces in 2016, is discussed to show how pedagogies of empathy and understanding can create a shift in the perception of youth towards violence. Young educated boys like Burhan Wani increasingly took up arms as a result of resentment, frustration, excessive state police violence and the lack of platforms to express grievances. The authors argue that by employing an engaged feminist peace education, not only in schools but also in informal spaces influenced by everyday experiences, positive social change among youth is possible. Such positive social change entails rehumanising the narrative of the Kashmir conflict by addressing the alienating narrative of ‘us’ versus the ‘other’.
What exactly is included in the feminist peace education and pedagogical practices that the authors propose in the chapter? Drawing from bell hooks’s idea of engaged pedagogy, the authors contend that an education founded on an acknowledgement of difference, voice and agency – and the lived experiences of people that are shaped by religion, class and sexuality – is transformative and emancipatory. Furthermore, they argue that protracted conflicts require different conceptions and designs of peace education. These interventions and designs must take into account historical injustice and agency along with violence and militarism. In doing so, educational tools should help young people make sense of the dominant discourses and complexities of the conflict in the valley, the authors argue.
What I find particularly interesting in the chapter is the engagement with the ideas of ‘everyday’, ‘lived experiences’ and ‘engaged pedagogy’. Prolonged conflict in Kashmir is more commonly understood through a state-centric lens that leads to a binarised view of the conflict. In the process, the lived experiences of the people are often overlooked in the pre-dominant mainstream accounts. The emphasis on voice, agency and nuances of the everyday lived experiences of men and women within the conflict setting is thus a significant contribution of this chapter. The process of making and remaking sense of lives and identities in conflict is informed not just by violence, but more importantly by day-to-day experiences. Mechanisms for a long-term transformative peace thus need to be foregrounded in the ‘everyday’ ways, strategies and practices of those navigating the conflict. In addition, sustained social repair is only possible when embedded in the rich realm of daily life. As rightly demonstrated by the chapter, pedagogical practices and education that are based on people-centric approaches are more meaningful and make it possible to address the alienation of youth. Providing engaging informal spaces for young people to express their grievances is a much-needed intervention in the existing peace-related conversations around the Kashmir conflict.
In addition to outlining the pedagogical practices in Kashmir through a feminist perspective, the authors might consider similar mechanisms for peace education in other parts of India as well. In the spirit of the chapter’s collaborative approach to building peace, the shift of the dominant narrative of the Kashmir conflict also requires a shift in the perception of those outside Kashmir. The ‘us’ and ‘other’ binaries can be addressed more meaningfully if feminist educational tools for peace are also included in the curriculums of schools in other states of India. Understanding the Kashmir conflict through the diverse everyday lived experiences of people, instead of violence and states, can perhaps lead to more empathetic conversations and perspectives beyond the valley as well. Overall, the chapter has opened up avenues and pathways to initiate bottom-up, nuanced feminist conversations around peacebuilding in Kashmir. It contains important lessons about the significance and shaping of alternative education and pedagogy in conflict situations. Imagining peace in prolonged and intractable conflicts such as Kashmir is only possible by moving away from state-centric towards people-centric approaches grounded in the everyday. This chapter successfully shows the crucial need for a shift at different levels (narrative, perceptive, educational, pedagogical and conversational) of conflict analysis and peacebuilding measures.
Reviewed by: Amya Agarwal
Foto: ©Cynthia Matonhodze, Harare, Zimbabwe