"Ever-Widening Circles”: U.S. Private Voluntary Development in Palestine/Israel and Jordan, 1930-1967

Francis Bonenfant-Juwong

History & Peace Studies

Using U.S. religiously-affiliated voluntary groups as my primary vehicle, my dissertation centers on the historical variations of U.S. social and economic development efforts in Palestine/Israel and Jordan, their connection to British colonial models of social welfare, and their “on the ground” implementation between 1930 and 1967. I suggest that although they were complicit with the expansion of British and American power in the region, groups such as Catholic Relief Services, the American Friends Service Committee, Near East Foundation, and International Voluntary Service were not neo-imperialists but rather flawed innovators who pushed the boundaries of Western relations with the non-Western world by seeking to correct power asymmetries in a peaceful, humane, and cooperative spirit. Linking into emergent research on alternative visions of socioeconomic development that were not necessarily Weberian “modernization,” private agencies (and some British officials) advocated visions and projects mirroring agricultural extension. Prefiguring contemporary concepts such as participatory action research and empowerment, proponents advocated the adaption of small-scale demonstrations, sensitivity to and knowledge of local culture, and self-help through intimate human-relationship building. Their experiences are valuable not only for understanding the history of U.S. power, but also for informing the present state of development and peacebuilding practice.

To Be Fully Alive: John of the Cross and Judith Butler on Transformation of the Self

Heather M. DuBois

Theology & Peace Studies

I am developing a praxis of intrapersonal transformation so that we might be better prepared for the personal change that is inherent to sustainable social change. Contributing to literatures on conflict transformation and mystical-political theology, I theorize transformation for “living selves and societies” by examining what in and of the self transforms, how transformation occurs, and what prevents it. In view of the challenges of modern identity, I draw from the early modern spiritual guidance of John of the Cross and the late modern critical theory of Judith Butler. I investigate interrelated micro-dynamics of physiology, affect, intelligence and spirituality, attending especially to socio-political power and virtue. I conceptualize the kind of self capable of intentional, positive transformation within and through finite material and social ecosystems. Further, I draw upon the affect theory of psychologist Silvan Tomkins to offer ways to concretely appropriate my theory about the self and its possibilities. Prepared in this way, we might more holistically, critically, and productively approach change processes, even amidst overt conflict.

The Soldier and Political Life

Caleb Hamman

Political Science & Peace Studies

My dissertation examines the political existence of the soldier in western civilization. I attempt to understand the place of the soldier in political life, as it has evolved from ancient times, to modernity, to the present day. Through readings of Homer and Thucydides; Machiavelli and Clausewitz; Carl Schmitt and Ernst Jünger; and Tocqueville and Hemingway, I analyze the types of political significance that have attached to the soldier across four historical moments. The historical studies set into relief the figure of the contemporary American soldier, whose essence—I argue—is to be an object of pity.

René Girard and Monotheism: the Refusal to Divinize Victims and the Mosaic Distinction

Chris Haw

Theology & Peace Studies

In my political theology of monotheism I explore the notorious “intolerance” of monotheism in a genealogical sense—where does monotheism come from, with its supposed absolutism and exclusivism, and what has it done to political representation and concepts? But, instead of downplaying monotheism's intolerance, or trying to do away with it, I focus on the importance, and even the enlightened, secularizing benevolence, of its intolerance. I examine Girard’s hypothesis that monotheism interrupted ancient political theologies in its “refusal to divinize victims” and its “devictimization of God,” and I place that into conversation with scholars of monotheism’s origins and development. I conclude by relating this account of monotheism to the scapegoat-divinity of Christ and its relevance to the concerns of intolerance, democracy, and pluralism today--using the social theory of Chantal Mouffee as a source for patient, democratic agonism amidst contending visions of justice.

Interpreting Islam: US Relations with Indonesia, 1954-1968

Laura Weis

History & Peace Studies

Policymakers and pundits today frequently discuss the state of U.S. relations with “the Muslim world.” How have ideas about Islam historically informed U.S. foreign policy? My dissertation examines how and when Islam became salient in U.S. relations during the height of the Cold War. Using a comparative framework, I analyze U.S. relations with two Muslim majority societies, Iraq and Indonesia, between 1956 and 1968. I scrutinize policymakers’ interpretations of religion; U.S. engagement with religious actors abroad; and how particular conceptions of Islam oscillated in influence over time. Detailed case studies of U.S. relations with Iraq and Indonesia can offer important historical context to guide the development of constructive relationships with these countries in the present. And, more broadly, understanding the ways in which policymakers have perceived religion—both as a catalyst for violence and as a potential resource for peacebuilding—offers insight into how the United States can better engage with religious actors today.