Ritual and Symbol in Peacebuilding
By Lisa Schirch
Conflict is dramatic. In theater, literature, story telling, and news reporting, it is a powerful mechanism that draws attention, heightens the senses and evokes emotion. Schirch argues that peacebuilding has the potential to do just the same.
Examples of peacebuilding often center on the serious, rational negotiations and formal problem-solving efforts in conflict situations. Schirch argues, though, that what truly bonds adversaries and helps achieve peace are the symbolic, non-verbal ritual acts–shaking hands, sharing a meal, showing a photograph of a loved one. Yet these are often overlooked as deliberate components of peace negotiations.
Ritual and Symbol in Peacebuilding underscores the importance of incorporating symbolic tools, including ritual, into traditional approaches to conflict. Ritual assists in solving complex, deep-rooted conflicts, and helps to confirm and transform worldviews, identities, and relationships. With theories and language to explain the symbolic dimensions of conflict, this text will be useful to scholars and practitioners active in the diverse field of peacebuilding.