Nonviolent Transformation of Conflicts
2 credits / 6 weeks weeks
16 Jan 2017 - 24 Feb 2017
Professor Mary E. King
Revolutionary armed conflict was once considered the only way for oppressed peoples to change severe injustice and oppression. Bloodshed was deemed necessary, often justified by the cliché that what was taken by violence can only be retrieved by violence. In the last decades of the 20th century, however, it became clear that armed insurrection is not the only choice for aggrieved groups and societies, and that nonviolent civil resistance, relying on a variety of forms of nonviolent action, could bring some impressive results. Some failures also occurred. Although this phenomenon has been coherently utilized to achieve political and social change for well over a century by groups, peoples, and societies in differing cultures and political systems, only recently has it gained respect as a potentially formidable strategic force by policy makers, political analysts, scholars, peacemakers, and international specialists of many fields.
Contemporary dictatorships and tyrants have collapsed from the pressure exerted by popular mass movements of nonviolent action, in countries such as the former Czechoslovakia, Chile, East Germany, Georgia on the Black Sea, the Philippines, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, or Ukraine, to name a few. In 2010–11, national nonviolent movements in Tunisia and Egypt changed the face of North Africa and the Middle East. Evidence shows that countries that experience bottom-up, grass-roots nonviolent struggle are more likely to sustain human rights and democracy once established than when armed insurrection is used, and that nonviolent movements succeed more often than violent insurrections. Given this record, it is important for would-be peacemakers to explore systematically the theories, methods, dynamics, and strategies of such movements.
Mary E. King
Political scientist and prize-winning author Mary King is Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, University for Peace. She has served as an Academic Adviser to the Africa programme, among other roles. She is also Distinguished Scholar with The American University Center for Global Peace, in Washington, DC, and a fellow with the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
King has been a practitioner of international relations for 30 years—requiring personal contact with heads of state and government ministers of more than 120 developing countries. While a presidential appointee in the Carter Administration, confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she had responsibility for the Peace Corps (60 countries), VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), and other national volunteer service corps programs. Since 1984, she has served as a special adviser to former president Jimmy Carter.
As a young student, she worked alongside the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (no relation) in the U.S. civil rights movement. She was one of what the New York Times called a “tiny handful” of white, female “heroic, unsung organizers of the Southern civil rights movement.” Her book on that epochal four-year experience, Freedom Song: A Personal Story of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, won her a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award in 1988.
In 2002 the second edition of her book, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr: The Power of Nonviolent Action, chronicling nine contemporary nonviolent struggles and originally published by UNESCO in Paris in 1999, was brought out in New Delhi by Mehta Publishers and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
Her latest book is A Quiet Revolution: The First Palestinian Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance (New York: Nation Books, 2007; London: Perseus Books, 2008).
Next to come is a reference book: The New York Times and Democratic Transitions in Eastern Europe, 1977-2005 (Washington, DC: C Q Press/Sage, 2009).
She is currently completing a book project, Conversion and the Mechanisms of Change in Nonviolent Action: The 1924–25 Vykom Satyagraha Case, a study of an historic nonviolent struggle against untouchability in Kerala, India, in 1924?25, with a grant award from the United States Institute of Peace.
King was co-author, with Casey Hayden, of “Sex and Caste,” a document published by the War Resisters League in 1966 that served as kindling for second-wave feminism. The Americanist historian Ruth Rosen in The World Split Open: How the Women=s Movement Changed America says this article makes her a central figure in starting the contemporary U.S. women=s movement.
Her doctorate in international politics is from the University of Wales at Aberystwyth. In 1989, her alma mater Ohio Wesleyan University bestowed on her its highest award for distinguished achievement.
In November 2003, she was given the Jamnalal Bajaj International Award, which recognizes the promotion of Gandhian values. In receiving this prize in Mumbai (Bombay), India, she joined the ranks of such previous winners as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat of the United Kingdom, and Professor Johan Galtung of Norway.
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