A transdisciplinary grand challenge - how can we lay the intellectual foundations for building peace in our times?

CHALLENGE 

Peace is not the prerogative of a few but a state of well-being whose structures must be maintained by all of us. The background to this program is the transformative change that is happening around the world in regard to peace and security. Nation states appear to be at a loss to deal with transborder issues such as parastatal terror and the call for collective security has grown stronger. Japan too is at an important crossroad, with the current government’s proposed revisions to the postwar Peace Constitution tending to polarize public opinion. In the U.K. too, the nation is struggling to understand what breeds “home grown terror”, which operates in distant lands overseas, in the search for ways of dealing with it. Against this background, we address the theme “Enslaving the Mind” and look at how structures of peace get enmeshed into structures of war, co-opting the public in the process.

PURPOSES

  1. To bring together early career researchers from the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences together to discuss a grand challenge that continues to plague human society.
  2. To explore how engagement with societal institutions can be fostered in executing the programme.
  3. To lay the foundations for reasoned advocacy and creative public engagement by early career researchers working collectively in a trans-border context.

OVERVIEW

The programme was held on 14 - 23 September 2016 at Ritsumeikan University, the home to the world’s first peace museum founded by a university. Twenty-two participants of fifteen nationalities joined the research endeavour. The program consisted of three parts;

Part 1: LESSONS FROM THE PAST

Part 2: THEATRES OF UNCERTAINTY TODAY

Part 3: SHAPING OUR SHARED FUTURE

Part 1 started with a visit to Ritsumeikan’s Kyoto Museum for World Peace. To help the participants understand how the public gets co-opted into war or conflict, we invited a special speaker Mr. Keiichiro Hirano, an award‐winning novelist, who advocated the significance of “dividual”, as oppose to “individual” and how it could affect the mindsets of the public through his lecture “What is ‘I’? – Individual or ‘Dividual’”. Part 1 also included a field visit to Nagasaki where the group visited Nagasaki Peace Park, Hypocentre Park, Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum before visiting Nagasaki University Research Centre for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (RECNA) for lectures by Prof. Tomonaga on “Antihumanitarian Consequence of Development and Detonation of Nuclear Weapons”, and Prof. Suzuki on “Overcoming Nuclear Dilemma: A Proposal for Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (NEA-NWFZ)”. The group also had a chance to interact with Nagasaki City Mayor Mr. Taue, and Mr. Yamawaki, an 82 year-old atomic bomb survivor. 

Part 2 included lectures and discussions looking into the uncertain situations of the Middle East. There was a special lecture by a Palestinian award winning writer/human rights lawyer Mr. Raja Shehadeh entitled “The Danger of Peace: What does Israel fear from Palestine?” which focused on the transformations of the mindset of current political actors in order for peace to be possible. Group work started from part 2, and participants formed 4 teams who conducted investigations, created a storyboard and developed these into a game and an exhibit poster on a chosen theme related to “enslaving the mind” and the issue of peace. This was intended to be their final presentations.

Part 3 encouraged the participants to work together on their final presentations. It also contained lectures about peace museums throughout the world and discussion on the relation of this year’s programme with next year’s workshop in Liverpool. The final presentations were presented on the last day of the programme.

OUTCOMES

The participants gained deeper understanding of how the public are co-opted into the process of war and conflict through the lectures, discussion and field work in which they participated during this programme. 

As a RENKEI project that emphasises the importance of public engagement in achieving positive social impact, the final outcome was created in the form of exhibits and games that mainly target primary school and junior high school students. The participants formed four groups and each group chose a topic. Each topic had a related artifact (two groups chose the same topic and used the same artifact) that were chosen by a curator of the Kyoto Museum for World Peace, and was used as part of their presentation.

Group 1: Fearless (topic: fear / artifact: a gas mask) – The exhibit shows the use of gas masks in the past around the world, and the situation in Japan after World War 1 to make visitors understand what impact it had on the people’s mind. The game enables players to rethink if all given information is correct or not, and experience how to overcome fears.

Group 2: Kazuo’s Bento Box (topic: atomic bomb of Hiroshima and Nagasaki / artifact: a bento box that belonged to a boy in Hiroshima and damaged by the atomic bomb) – The exhibit shows the story of a fictional character “Kazuo” who was killed in the atomic bomb attack in Hiroshima and asks visitors to think what they can do to create a peaceful future. The game is associated with the actual geography and buildings of Nagasaki City that stood when the city was hit by an atomic bomb.

Group 3: The Game of Truth (topic: censorship / artifact: a blacked-out textbook) – The exhibit shows the purpose of censorship and how it has been used all over the world, encouraging visitors to think of the effect it has on people’s mind. The game has messages for peace that are covered and players need to find the truth by themselves. 

Group 4: Overcoming Fear (topic: fear / artifact: a gas mask) – The exhibit tells about the forgotten tragedies in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War caused by the Japanese army and shows messages written by the participants and faculty members of the project wishing for peace. The game gives three players different roles, a government official, police and a citizen, and all try to survive a situation with fear of gas attack by working together. 

COORDINATING UNIVERSITIES

  • Ritsumeikan University
  • University of Liverpool

(in cooperation with Kyushu University)

ENQUIRIES

renkei@britishcouncil.or.jp

External links