Kroc Workshop Explores Music, Literature and Peace

Author: Renée LaReau

Musicians, artists, performers, writers, scholars, and student-artists gathered at the Kroc Institute April 19-20 for a workshop to explore the connections among music, literature and peacebuilding.

This workshop, a collaboration between the Kroc Institute and the University of Edinburgh's (Scotland) Peacebuilding Through Media Arts project and the International Conference of Peace and Reconciliation at York St John University (England), focused on the theory and practice of arts-based peacebuilding as informed by religion and spirituality. 

The arts deserve a prominent place in peacebuilding practice and scholarship, said Kroc Institute Director Scott Appleby, who organized the workshop with Jolyon Mitchell, professor of communications, arts and religion at the University of Edinburgh. 

“At its core, peacebuilding is a process of fostering and sustaining interpersonal and cross-community relationships that draw on the human capacity for healing, reconciliation, and social transformation,” Appleby said. “Music, literature, and spiritual practice make the depths of human compassion and creativity accessible to this process." 

Workshop participants from numerous countries included:

  • Sandra Gustafson, professor of English and American Studies at Notre Dame, who presented a literary analysis within the framework of strategic peacebuilding.
  • Patrick Madden, associate professor of English at Brigham Young University, who addressed the role of the personal essay in the cultivation of empathy and tolerance.
  • Lindsay McClain Opiyo, a peace studies master’s student at the Kroc Institute, who has been involved in contemporary music and ecumenical peacebuilding in Northern Uganda.
  • Ketty Anyeko and Tamara Shaya, peace studies master’s students at the Kroc Institute, who discussed storytelling as an art of peacebuilding.
  • Vanessa Contopolous, music therapist, singer-songwriter and co-creator of the SongStream Project, who discussed music and healing.
  • Michael Fryer, a peacebuilding practitioner, trainer and lecturer who has worked in Northern Ireland.
  • Alison Rice, associate professor of French at Notre Dame, who discussed music-making and peacebuilding in the writing of Francophone women. 
  • Julie Okot Bitek, an essayist and poet writing her doctoral dissertation on narratives of formerly abducted women in northern Uganda. 
  • Jane Sapp, a musician and cultural worker with Brandeis University’s Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts.
  • Cynthia Cohen, director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis University. 
  • Jason Springs, assistant professor of religion, ethics, and peace studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
  • Emmanuel Katongole, associate professor of theology and peace studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
  • J. Martin Daughtry, assistant professor of music at New York University, who discussed the meaning of voice.
  • Linden Bicket, a researcher on the British Academy-funded project “George Mackay Brown: A Literary Executor’s Archive.” 
  • Pauline Kollontai, deputy dean of the faculty of education and theology at York St John University. 
  • Theodora Hawskley, an ecclesiologist who works on the “Peacebuilding through the Media Arts” project of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues. 
  • Geoffrey Stevenson, an actor and University of Edinburgh-trained expert in homiletics and the development of preachers.
  • John Paul Lederach, professor of international peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
  • Atalia Omer, assistant professor of religion, conflict and peace studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
  • Hal Culbertson, executive director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
  • Sebastian Kim, Chair in Theology and Public Life in the Faculty of Education & Theology at York St John University. 

This event was the second of three planned workshops on peacebuilding and the arts. The first, at the University of Edinburgh in October 2012, explored the intersection of peacebuilding and the visual arts. The third, to be held at the University of Edinburgh in August 2013, will explore peacebuilding through theatre. Workshop organizers plan to produce an edited volume of essays on the theory and practice of peacebuilding through the arts.   

Contact: Hal Culbertson, 574-631-8832,