Summary and Keywords
The arts have long been associated with social transformation and peacebuilding. In conflict-affected settings, the arts can serve to raise awareness of the impacts of violence, enable distinctive expressions of culture, offer opportunities for intercultural collaboration, and embody affective and aesthetic means of engaging with trauma and healing. Conversely, the arts also have the potential to harm, when they are used in the name of propaganda, for example, or result in re-traumatizing victims of conflict in an aestheticization of experience. An emerging interdisciplinary field of arts and peacebuilding is researching the arts’ potential to restore capacities that might have been eclipsed by violence and long-standing oppression—that is, arts practice at the nexus of reconciliation, community development, and social justice. As the field grows, scholarship in peace studies, applied arts, conflict resolution, and peace education is contributing to a productive troubling of definitions of peace and is drawing attention to the role of affect, cultural diversity, and coloniality in such work. Future scholarship in which the arts are conceptualized beyond the instrumental benefits to their multiple legitimate purposes as a “way of knowing” will more appropriately capture the complexities, uncertainties, and paradoxes of imagining and building peace through the arts in diverse contexts. Key international projects continue to decolonize universalizing definitions and practices of the arts by documenting and investigating a range of aesthetic practices in peacebuilding. This work is being generated and disseminated broadly across disciplinary scholarly communities, government and nongovernment agencies, and professional networks of educators and artists. The nexus of arts and peacebuilding theory has much to offer the mobilization of new directions in peacebuilding practice and an integration of arts-based peace education.
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