Creative movement and peacebuilding

This book explores the relationship between peacebuilding and dance, including insights dance provides on key debates around peace and conflict. It investigates the practice of a dance-focused peacebuilding programme and tells the important story of youth who engage in dance for peacebuilding in Colombia, the Philippines and the United States. In doing so, the book analyses the ways in which this programme fits into the broader global context. Incorporating participant voices, critical political analysis and reflections on dance practice, this book reveals important implications and nuances regarding arts-based peace initiatives that can also contribute to reflections on peacebuilding more broadly. In particular, investigating the role of empathy and embodiment further contributes to expanding perspectives on peacebuilding. As such, this book contributes to theory and practice while building critical understanding of the politics of integrating dance into peacebuilding. By exploring the politics of dancing peace, including benefits and challenges, and local and global connections, this book highlights and analyses key issues in arts-based peacebuilding approaches. As the global community continues to seek pathways to peace that are inclusive of people across differences – such as race, religion, gender, culture, age and locality – and that improve upon, supplement or replace existing dominant approaches, this book provides a valuable in-depth analysis and recommendations for practice.

Abstract only
Lesley Pruitt and Erica Rose Jeffrey

This chapter introduces the book’s main purpose: exploring the relationship between dance and peacebuilding in pluralist societies. It highlights instructive insights dance can provide when reflecting on existing theories and debates around peace and conflict. The research deepens the understanding of the roles the arts, and dance in particular, play in peacebuilding. Building on existing work in International Relations, Peace and Conflict Studies, and Dance, as well as complementary areas of study such as anthropology, neuroscience and law, this chapter sets out how the book considers the work of a non-governmental organisation and its participants deploying dance for youth peacebuilding through case studies across three contexts – Colombia, the Philippines and the United States. These case studies include multiple delivery sites of the dance programme in different contexts of violence or conflict and varied approaches to peace. The introduction previews how investigating the application of a dance-based peacebuilding programme across these three case studies allows us to consider nuance and context, as well as commonalities across the locales.

in Dancing through the dissonance
Lesley Pruitt and Erica Rose Jeffrey

Chapter 1 makes the case for considering dance in relation to peacebuilding, based on an interrogation of existing research from across a range of fields of study. The chapter explores how growing interest and research in arts-based peacebuilding highlight the importance of utilising multiple pathways in the pursuit of peace. It also examines how, globally, dance and music are recognised as important facilitators of social cohesion and the creation and expression of culture. Recognising these components, the chapter considers theories and practices of dance and peacebuilding, including discussions of embodiment and empathy, among other key relevant concepts; this exploration provides a context for understanding how and where dance and peacebuilding meet. The chapter argues for the recognition of the importance of the role of dance in encouraging diverse forms of communication, in building relationships across difference, and in engaging the participation of diverse actors in local, national and international forums. Finally, the field is outlined by exploring a basic typology of six categories proposed to understand efforts at dance-based peacebuilding (therapeutic; artist-led social change or protest; community-led social change or protest; collective forms; educational; and diplomatic).

in Dancing through the dissonance
Lesley Pruitt and Erica Rose Jeffrey

Chapter 2 discusses the role of young people in peacebuilding and the ways in which dance plays a part in this process. Previous research has identified the importance and political significance of young people in peacebuilding. Simultaneously, international organisations such as the United Nations have made steps towards increasing the opportunities and support for young people in peacebuilding endeavours, locally and globally, including through the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security in 2015. Despite these efforts, and the extent to which youth are immersed in conflict both as recipients of violence and as perpetrators, young people remain on the sidelines of peace initiatives and are not sufficiently recognised and engaged in policy, theory or practice. The research conducted for this book suggests that dance can constitute an effective, inclusive pathway to support youth participation in peacebuilding, especially when incorporating elements of peer leadership. At the same time, the data gathered across the three case studies highlights the importance of including options for peace, reconciliation and social transformation that are age appropriate, gender sensitive, culturally relevant and flexible.

in Dancing through the dissonance
Lesley Pruitt and Erica Rose Jeffrey

Chapter 3 considers the creation and sharing of ‘hub dances’ – group dance exchange activities – across and between programme sites, to investigate what dance can tell us about local and/or global approaches to peacebuilding, including how the two are defined, interact or may co-constitute one another. It also examines the political ramifications of this co-creation and/or interchange. The hub dances aim to serve as a vehicle for cross-cultural moments of exchange and to provide opportunities for (re)creating identity in multiple ways that can support peacebuilding. At the same time, the use of hub dances also prompts further examination of the different cultural contexts in which conflict occurs and the tensions between the homogenisation of dance ideas paired with individual or group freedoms, and the possibilities of instilling stereotypes or being valued for difference. Likewise, the chapter considers the ways in which the creation, practice, and exchange of hub dances enacts meaning around the identities of self, others and the community, and how this relates to the creation of broader social change for peacebuilding across difference.

in Dancing through the dissonance
Lesley Pruitt and Erica Rose Jeffrey

Chapter 4 explores the concept of practising peace though a deep investigation of one set of activities involving the use of mirroring movements. Cultivating empathy has been identified as one crucial element of building peace. As researchers have established, empathy is essential to the restructuring of relationships after violence. Mirroring is a well-established dance activity that is used in many settings and contexts, including theatre, dance therapy, dance education and community dance, and simple variations are included in some mainstream peacebuilding resources as icebreakers. As seen in the three case studies across cultures, peace must be practised, and the process of mirroring provides opportunities for this by inviting interpersonal exchange and the building of kinaesthetic, or felt, empathy, which provides avenues through which to see, understand and feel others across difference. In addition to the potential of empathy within peacebuilding, this chapter discusses the politics of empathy and its challenges in arts-based peacebuilding.

in Dancing through the dissonance
Lesley Pruitt and Erica Rose Jeffrey

To date, practitioner self-care is underexplored in Peace and Conflict Studies, even though peacebuilders themselves could benefit immensely from further investigation in this area, which could in turn strengthen the depth and quality of their work as facilitators for peace. Indeed, the research for this book has suggested that participants had an opportunity to experience themselves in ways that enabled them to express a deeper sense of self-understanding, embodiment and strength to go on with their work. Chapter 5 considers how, in the midst of difficult work in conflict-ridden circumstances, peacebuilders have embraced the opportunities that dance provides to relieve stress and re-engage with their bodies. At the same time, acknowledging that diverse bodies may be placed differently in settings of conflict, the chapter also interrogates the prospects and challenges posed by gender and age norms in particular sites of peacebuilding. It also suggests that dance has broader implications in peacebuilding because it can help enable a more reflective stance for considering conflict. In this sense, it has to potential offer new and creative directions for pursuing peace.

in Dancing through the dissonance