Mark Behr, M.A. ’93

Published: April 11, 2016

Author: Renée LaReau

Mark Behr

Mark Behr (1963-2015), born in Tanzania and raised in South Africa, was a talented author who addressed race, gender, and militarization within contemporary authoritarian cultures.

His first novel, The Smell of Apples, was published in Afrikaans in 1993 while he was a student of the Kroc Institute, and in English in 1995. He has since published two more award-winning novels, Embrace and Kings of the Water. His work has been awarded prizes in Africa, Europe, and the United States, and has been translated into 10 languages.

Mark was professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. He previously taught at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, the College of Sante Fe, New Mexico, the University of New Mexico and the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He also researched and taught several times over the years at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, Norway (PRIO).

In an extensive 2010 interview with Mark published in Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, Mark notes, "Working‰ in the International Peace Studies tradition, which is premised on an approach that is international, interdisciplinary, non-violent, and praxis-oriented, had a lasting impact on my own understanding of conflict and conflict transformation. Even without knowing that this is what I do I try to live by these, and to teach literature very much with these ideas at the heart of my pedagogy. Once I started studying Feminist, Post Colonial and Queer approaches to literature, I found that these all sat very comfortably beside Peace Studies' activist intentions.‰"

While a university student at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, Behr became an agent for the South African apartheid government, which monitored student activity to prevent political insurrection. After a political conversion, Mark later became a double agent and spied on the South African government for the African National Congress, a major anti-apartheid organization.

Mark earned Notre Dame master's degrees in fiction writing and English literature. Describing his work, Mark said: "I teach literature and writing in ways that are deeply and profoundly informed by the activism I believe is a part of the best kinds of peace studies."