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On Nourishing Peace: The Performativity of Activism through the Nobel Peace Prize

Abstract

The Nobel Peace Prize as a global media spectacle centered in Northern Europe is not without controversy. What we hope to accomplish in this essay is two fold: first, to advance the concept of "nourishing peace”, which we define as a process that combines both negative peace and positive peace; and second, to use the theoretical framework woven from Turner's social drama, Conquergood's dialogical performance, and Appadurai's five scapes and global disjunctive flows to engage students in unpacking the Nobel Peace Prize critically, including the recent award of the prize to American President Barak Obama. Our critical analysis notes a few trends over the years of awarding Nobel Peace Prizes: awards framed traditionally from the point of negative peace often went to white men occupying positions of power in the West; and awards framed from the point of positive peace narrowly and nourishing peace broadly opened up more space for women and men of color and organizations that promoted human rights and well beings. The harbinger of this glaring elision in Nobel ideology is the missing Peace Laureate, Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was nominated five times but never became a Laureate in his lifetime. Marking yet another trend, the recent award to President Obama was not for a "completed action”, but rather for a future oriented nourishing peace, i.e., the publicly stated goal of nuclear disarmament and bringing about potentially a peaceful future. As teachers, we are encouraged to draw on Obama’s “call to action” and use the Nobel Peace Prize as a means of inspiring obtainable local action, so that each “aha moment” in students' deep learning can become a turning point for critical consciousness and an impetus for meaningful peace activism both locally and globally.

Victoria Ann Newsom, Wenshu Lee

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