Envisioning peace: Equipping students with new visions for peace


Sarah Lords

What is peace? How do historical, philosophical, religious, and political approaches shape our understanding of it? Are war and peace entangled concepts? Is women’s peace different than men’s peace?

These are the questions that students explore in “Envisioning Peace,” an undergraduate course taught by Yasmin Saikia, professor of history in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies and Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies at the Center. 

For Saikia, the ability to consider and work through these questions is essential to cultivating just and lasting peace.

“In order to effectively construct a peaceable world and future, we must begin by building a comprehensive vision of what such a world would look like,” says Saikia. “These detailed imaginings then provide a framework, giving us the ability to recognize what changes need to be made and what actions are needed to best promote peace.”

Saikia’s course gives students the opportunity to engage with these concepts by looking at historical and religious understandings of peace, peace movements, and methods in peace studies, while also analyzing current issues in the context of a post 9/11 world.

For Madeline Stull, a junior majoring in history with minors in Arabic studies and civic and economic thought and leadership, the class offered her new, critical perspectives on the complexity of the world.

“This class gave me a deeper understanding of how interdependent different areas of study are when thinking about peace in the world—religion, history, culture, and politics all play a massive and influential role in how we think about peace and conflict,” says Stull, “This class pushed me to understand history’s unique role in prolonging or abating conflict, and I look forward to exploring that inquiry further in my honors thesis.”

It is this kind of student empowerment and the potential for future engagement in these issues that makes Saikia particularly excited about the course.

“Peace—and especially the process of working towards it—is a dynamic process, so providing students with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives that allow them to contribute to a more peaceable future is deeply important.”