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The Enduring Questions Course on Peace and Violence

by Web on July 2, 2015


Two Millsaps College professors are developing a new class that will explore the question, “Is peace possible or is violence inevitable?”

Dr. Kristen Brown Golden, associate professor of philosophy, and Dr. Lola Williamson, associate professor of religious studies, have received a $33,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop and teach the Enduring Questions Course on Peace and Violence.

The course will support a peace and justice interdisciplinary minor and a freshman seminar that will be implemented for the first time in the fall of 2015.

“The class Dr. Golden and Dr. Williamson are developing ties directly to our new Compass Curriculum, which will offer all first-year students beginning in the fall of 2015 a new tool to find their best path to graduation and beyond,” said Dr. Keith Dunn, senior vice president and dean at Millsaps College. “Their class will be among those in the curriculum that will allow students to grapple with life’s biggest, most important and often messiest questions, as they learn to positively impact the communities in which they find themselves.”

Dr. David Davis, associate dean of arts and humanities at Millsaps, added, “This highly competitive grant will allow Lola and Kristen to address one of the great enduring questions of human history: Is peace possible? How can we as educated and engaged citizens work to create a culture of peace in our local and global communities?  Most historians focus on moments of violence and ignore the eras of peaceful coexistence that offer great models for our own times. Our society spends billions on refining the art of war. Why not invest in cultivating the arts of peace?

Golden and Williamson plan to develop the course by drawing on memoirs, historical documents and artifacts, biological studies, novels, poetry and visual arts from a variety of cultures across time as well as consulting experts in the fields included in the course and meeting with community partners.

As part of the course, students will explore in small groups either “Timbuktu in its Golden Age,” “nonviolent methods and actions during the civil rights movement” or William Penn’s ‘holy experiment’ as he applied Quaker precepts in the colony of Pennsylvania.”

Students studying Timbuktu will meet with educators from the International Museum of Muslim Cultures while those studying the civil rights movement will interact with educators from the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which is expected to open in December 2017. Students studying early Quaker history in the U.S. will engage with a local Quaker group as well as the William Penn House and the Friends Council on Education via Skype.

Golden and Williamson will select students to participate on a Community Engaged Learning Panel, which Millsaps organizes for its Jackson area partners. The professors will lead a Millsaps “Art of Teaching Workshop” on the community aspect of the course and give a lecture on the peace cultures of Ashokan India and Golden-Age Timbuktu.

The professors also plan to speak at a national conference such as the Peace and Justice Studies Association or the Religions, Social Conflict, and Peace Group of the American Academy of Religion.