Transforming Conflict and Building Peace

Community Engagement Strategies for Communication Scholarship and Practice

by Peter M. Kellett (Volume editor) Stacey L. Connaughton (Volume editor) George Cheney (Volume editor)
©2020 Monographs VIII, 290 Pages
Series: Conflict and Peace, Volume 1


This inaugural volume in the Peter Lang Conflict and Peace series brings together works that richly depict the tensions between the promise and reality of applying communication principles and theories to conflict transformation and peacebuilding around the world and in the United States. Each chapter provides concrete examples of the doing of engaged scholarship in this context. Chapter contributors explain how their on-the-ground work has contributed to theorizing in communication and beyond as well as to conflict transformation and peacebuilding practice. Importantly, they also unearth the challenges in designing and implementing techniques and practices. As a collection, this edited volume underscores the communicative nature of conflict transformation and peacebuilding in particular, and engaged scholarship, in general. The collection also reveals tensions in doing engaged scholarship that are applicable to other contexts beyond conflict transformation and peacebuilding.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: The Promise and Reality of Engaged Scholarship and Practice (Peter M. Kellett, Stacey L. Connaughton, and George Cheney)
  • Part I: Designing and Leading/Implementing Transformative Engagement
  • 1 Doing Locally Led Peacebuilding: An Examination of the Relationally Attentive Approach to Conducting Engaged Scholarship in Liberia, West Africa (Jennifer K. Ptacek, Daniel Kamal, Meghana Rawat, Jasmine R. Linabary, and Stacey L. Connaughton)
  • 2 Catalyzing Deliberation: How Engaged Scholarship Helped Surface Community Values and Transform Conflict in Local School Facilities Planning (Laura W. Black)
  • Part II: Locally and Culturally Grounded Engagement
  • 3 Rethinking the Local Turn in Peacebuilding: Re(visiting) Preventative Stances in Violent Extremism: The Case of Likoni Subcounty, South Coast, Kenya (John Mwangi Githigaro)
  • 4 Devising More Effective Peacebuilding Tools for Africa (Gilbert T. Zvaita and Ibrahim Yusuf)
  • Part III: Preventative, Restorative, and Systemic Engagement
  • 5 Disrupting Cycles of Revenge and Boosting Community Resilience: A Forgiveness and Reconciliation Program at Boys and Girls Clubs (Vincent R. Waldron, Cindy Becker, Dayna Kloeber, Douglas Kelley, Jonathan Pettigrew, Rob Razzante, Katrina Hanna, Vonn Magnin, and Tonia Smith)
  • 6 Cultivating a Space for Restorative Justice in Kansas: Exploring Opportunities for Restorative Justice through Dialogic Deliberation (Gregory D. Paul)
  • 7 Fraught Times: Engaging Systemic Issues of Hate Online (John Drew and Devin Thornburg)
  • Part IV: Volunteer and Citizen Scholars: Reflections and Lessons Learned
  • 8 Practicing Mediation as an Engaged Scholar: A Personal Memoir (Gwen A. Hullman)
  • 9 Walking the Challenging Path of Peacebuilding: Reflections of an Engaged Scholar (Benjamin J. Broome)
  • Part V: Teaching and Learning Peace and Conflict Transformation
  • 10 Dialogic Prudence: Promoting Transformative Conflict through Civil Dialogue® (Robert J. Razzante, Katrina N. Hanna and Jennifer A. Linde)
  • 11 Teaching Conflict Transformation in the Basic Communication Course: Narrative Reflections by Graduate Teaching Instructors (Alex J. Patti, Bruce Case, and Christopher V. Jordan)
  • Conclusion: Response and Prologue to Further Work (George Cheney, Stacey L. Connaughton, and Peter M. Kellett)
  • About the Editors
  • About the Contributors
  • Index


Pete thanks all the conflict scholar-practitioners and peacebuilders contributing to this book. By investing their energy and expertise in various contexts locally, regionally, and globally, they continue to help make the world a fairer and more just place. By making the effort to write about their experiences here, they enrich our learning by showing us the lived reality of how such work gets done.

Stacey thanks all the peacebuilding scholar-practitioners and peacebuilders around the world who have inspired many to believe in, hope for, and actively pursue the possibilities of peace.

George thanks all the people in peace organizations, cooperatives, and ecologically minded communities who demonstrate the power of sound process and offer hope for the possible.

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Introduction: The Promise and Reality of Engaged Scholarship and Practice

Peter M. Kellett, Stacey L. Connaughton, and George Cheney

This book serves as the inaugural volume in the Peter Lang series, “Conflict and Peace,” which is edited by Kellett and Connaughton. For this first book in the series, co-edited with Cheney, we wanted both to explain the orientation for the series and to presage future volumes, including those by other editors and authors, to follow the spirit of this one. To provide context for the present volume, we wish to highlight leading-edge conflict transformation and peacebuilding work that is achieved through engaged scholarship in the contemporary world. For the series, we wish to give voice to and advance research that demonstrates the relationship between conflict and systemic issues (e.g., relational, cultural, social, environmental, political, historical, and economic issues). This includes the roles of change practices and processes in broader systemic efforts to create a fairer, more just, healthier, and sustainable world, and the kinds of relationships that make that possible. This and future volumes will feature the lived experience of conflict transformation and peacebuilding of scholar-practitioners, and those affecting and affected by conflicts. In so doing, we wish to encourage books that explore novel ways of representing the spectrum of lived experiences of people involved in conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Series books will aim to show how theory and research design inform and are informed by practice, integrating diverse theories and methods from relevant disciplines through which conflicts are understood, addressed, and even prevented.

Our book series seeks to encourage work that considers and integrates a variety of modes and domains of conflict and peace interaction such as face to face, online, community, discursive, rhetorical, and others. We envision a series that has substantial appeal to scholarly audiences across relevant ←1 | 2→disciplines, and that speaks meaningfully to various audiences beyond academia (e.g., practitioners, policymakers, and donors). Clarity and accessibility of expression will be a hallmark of the books in this series. In this first volume, we believe, we have crafted a book that both exemplifies the type of work that we desire for the series as well as provides inspiration and guidance for succeeding volumes in a similar vein. In short, we believe this volume is a good beginning to what we hope is a valuable series for scholarly, educational, and practical purposes.

In this book, we bring together works that richly illustrate the creative tensions between the promise and the reality of applying communication theories, principles, and techniques to the world through the practice of conflict transformation and peacebuilding. The promise or ideal of helping to transform conflict and building lasting and sustainable positive peace, while aiming to help make the world around us a fairer and more just place, is at the heart of why scholars and practitioners apply communication to the world in this way (Anderson, Brown, & Jean, 2012; Boulding, 2002; Broome, 2002; Connaughton & Berns, 2019; Moix, 2019; Schirch & Campt, 2007). As Bridget Moix demonstrates in her 2019 book, people around the world choose peace despite tremendous structural, political, social, cultural, personal, and other kinds of barriers they face when doing the work of peacebuilding. Indeed, those of us committed to this line of work—researchers, practitioners, everyday citizens—want to make a difference. A well-designed conflict transformation and/or peacebuilding process that is culturally and relationally sensitive, as well as flexible and responsive, can unfold smoothly in practice. Yet, we also know that a lot goes into making a process look simple and elegant. Applications, in practice, also involve a broad range of context-based complexities, difficulties, and challenges about which change agents must be mindful and skillful (Ahmed & Bukhari, 2019; Autesserre, 2014; Firchow & Anastasiou, 2016; Lederach, 1997; Pineda Ruano, 2019). It is this nous, this practical knowhow of balancing promise and reality that we seek to bring to light here.

For this book, we sought a collection of essays which captures both the spirit of and desire for change that inspires each of the chapter authors to do their work in various places in the world, as well as the reality of what it is like to engage with conflicts and peacebuilding efforts. To get at this knowledge, we guided chapter authors to manifest a balance between process or technique description, and their experiences with designing, implementing, and reflecting on the impact of those processes and techniques in practice. We wanted them to be free to describe the ups and downs, ins and outs, joys and disappointments, false starts, and in-the-field/on-the-fly modifications to ←2 | 3→processes and techniques. We asked authors to reflect on and honestly address their learning experiences in doing the work of conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Some chapter authors found writing their personal experience into their chapters difficult and uncomfortable, even at odds with their social scientific training. Others relished the freedom to disclose and process the personal aspects of their work. Together, the authors offer valuable insights into the experience of doing engaged conflict transformation and peacebuilding work. We believe that the reader will benefit from how these authors address this dialectical tension of promise and reality as they strive to maximize the impact of their community and relationally engaged work.

We organized the volume into five parts, each of which examines an important aspect of the theory and practice of transforming conflict and building peace. Part I consists of two chapters that illustrate the opportunities and important considerations in designing, leading, and implementing transformative engagement processes so that they can have their desired impact on those settings. In Chapter 1 “Doing locally led peacebuilding: An examination of the relationally attentive approach to conducting engaged scholarship in Liberia, West Africa,” Jennifer Ptacek and colleagues highlight the importance of including local voices in defining peace and its desired outcomes. They show us how transformative outcomes of peace processes are connected to the quality of communicative collaboration—the co-constructed reality—between the U.S.-based team members (PPP) and the local team members involved in and affected by the conflict. In Chapter 2 “Catalyzing deliberation: How engaged scholarship helped surface community values and transform conflict in local school facilities planning,” Laura Black takes us inside a local community’s struggle over planning discussions for school facilities amid scarce resources. Building on a similar theme to Chapter 1, Black shows us the importance of engaging with and listening carefully to local voices, and the delicate balance between helping to stimulate the dialogue between conflicting voices and ensuring that participants are focused on creating their own peaceful solutions—catalyzing but not colonizing, if you will. Taken together, the two chapters speak to the careful sensitivity to local experiences and local involvement that are needed in order to effectively help people produce sustainable and meaningful change in their own worlds.

Part II examines the central importance of the locally and culturally grounded reality of community engagement for conflict transformation and peacebuilding. In Chapter 3, “Rethinking the local turn in peace-building: Re(visiting) preventative stances in violent extremism: The Case of Likoni Subcounty, South Coast, Kenya,” John Mwangi critiques the conventional liberal peacebuilding agenda as it is applied to countering violent extremism ←3 | 4→in Kenya. In so doing, he invites alternative constructions of terrorism (in addition to viewing terrorism as a state-centric concept) and encourages the incorporation of local actors in preventing violent extremism. Similarly, in Chapter 4, “Devising more effective peacebuilding tools for Africa,” Gilbert Zvaita and Ibrahim Yusuf also critique the liberal peacebuilding agenda and its application in Africa, this time focusing our attention on engaging multiple disciplinary perspectives in order to privilege local ownership of peacebuilding and to help break the liberal peacebuilding agenda’s hold on ways peacebuilding is approached and done in Africa.

Part III examines the opportunities, challenges, and learning experiences of designing and implementing preventative, restorative, and systemic change processes. In Chapter 5, “Disrupting cycles of revenge and boosting community resilience: A forgiveness and reconciliation program at Boys and Girls Clubs,” Vince Waldron and colleagues provide a fascinating account of the joys and challenges of designing and implementing a program to develop forgiveness and reconciliation competencies by boys and girls. Focused on building competencies as long-term social and communicative capital, the authors invite us to think about how forgiveness and reconciliation can be taught/learned, and how these competencies will hopefully have long-term impacts on how these children will preventatively manage conflicted differences throughout their lives. Chapter 6, “Cultivating a space for restorative justice in Kansas: Exploring opportunities for restorative justice through dialogic deliberation,” also takes us into the challenging but promising world of restorative justice that is used to help reshape how community members think about justice. In this chapter, Gregory Paul demonstrates how dialogic deliberation is central to implementing restorative justice programs at a local level. Chapter 7, “Fraught times: Engaging systemic issues of hate online” provides a timely and provocative account of online conflict. Whereas the other chapters in this section focus on reshaping how people engage with differences after the fact, and/or face to face, in this chapter, John Drew and Devin Thornburg take us into the contemporary online world where we see hateful conflict being generated and spread rapidly. The authors challenge us to consider how the sharp divisions develop, the roles of the virtual world in exacerbating conflict, and how the same technologies might be used more productively and in line with their promise of connection and unity.

Part IV engages the reader with two career-long “tales from the field.” A community mediator and an international peacebuilder reflect on their long-term experiences and lessons learned in their extensive applied conflict and peacebuilding field work. Chapter 8, “Practicing mediation as an engaged scholar: A personal memoir,” gives us a valuable reflection on what it is like ←4 | 5→to become and be a community mediator. Gwen Hullman confronts and modifies her academic knowledge in the face of the reality of mediation. She also reflects on her training experiences, how the role of community mediator changed her relationship to her community in Reno, Nevada, and positively impacted her work as a communication professor. In Chapter 9, “Walking the challenging path of peacebuilding: Reflections of an engaged scholar,” Benjamin Broome reflects on twenty-five years of his involvement in helping to build dialogue-based peace between the factions in a complex historically grounded, cultural, ethnic, and political conflict in Cyprus. He invites us into the ebbs and flows in efforts to help the “sides” to come together to create their own vision for peace in their world. Both chapters show us the creative tension between scholarship and practice, and provide fascinating glimpses into how doing community-engaged scholarship changed them as scholars and people more broadly.

Part V explores the important question of how we can most effectively teach conflict transformation and peacebuilding given what we know about the theory and reality of doing such community engaged work. In Chapter 10, “Dialogic prudence: Promoting transformative conflict through Civil Dialogue®,” Robert Razzante and colleagues advance a reflective framework for sensitively and carefully engaging with community conflicts through the notion of dialogic prudence. Chapter 11, “Teaching conflict transformation in the basic communication course: Narrative reflections by graduate teaching Instructors” takes us into the lived reality of engaging students in a basic communication course with the concepts and practices of conflict transformation, in ways that push them beyond the typical conflict resolution approaches of such textbooks. In this chapter, Alex Patti and collaborators reflect on the challenges and opportunities of fostering a deeper and more systemic understanding of conflict in students. Together, these chapters remind us that the knowledge and skills of doing community-engaged work can be promoted effectively through communication, and underscore how these competencies need to be shared and passed on if they are to be more widely known and used to make a difference.

The chapters of this volume provide us with rich insight into the doing of engaged scholarship—how it is and ought to be done communicatively—and the being of engaged scholarship—what it means to be an engaged scholar doing conflict transformation and peacebuilding work, and how it challenges and changes us as scholars, teachers, and people more broadly. The authors reveal the complexities and necessities of doing conflict transformation and peacebuilding. They invite us all to consider these complexities in the context of our own engaged scholarship and they encourage us to press onward with ←5 | 6→hope and resilience. And, they remind us that at the heart of conflict transformation and peacebuilding—as well as all engaged scholarship and practice—lies the communicative.


Ahmed, Z. S., & Bukhari, R. (2019). Madaris and peace education in Pakistan: A case study of Peace and Education Foundation. In S. L. Connaughton & J. Berns (eds.), Locally led peacebuilding: Global case studies (pp. 242–255). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Anderson, M. B., Brown, D., & Jean, I. (2012). Time to listen: Hearing people on the receiving end of international aid. Cambridge, MA: CDA Collaborative Learning Projects.

Autesserre, S. (2014). Peaceland: Conflict resolution and the everyday politics of international intervention. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Broome, B. J. (2002). Participatory planning and design in a protracted conflict situation: Applications with citizen peace-building groups in Cyprus. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 19, 313–321. doi: 10.1002/sres.434.

Boulding, E. (2002). Practice love and sustain hope. In J. P. Lederach & J. M. Jenner (eds.), A handbook of international peacebuilding: Into the eye of the storm (pp. 299–304). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Connaughton, S. L., & Berns, J. (2019). Locally led peacebuilding: Global case studies. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Firchow, P., & Anastasiou, H. (2016). Practical approaches to peacebuilding: Putting theory to work. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner Publishers.

Lederach, J. P. (1997). Building peace: Sustainable reconciliation in divided societies. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.

Moix, B. (2019). Choosing peace: Agency and action in the midst of war. London: Rowman & Littlefield International.

Pineda Ruano, J. D. (2019). Peacebuilding in Guatemala: The local peace network methodology. In S. L. Connaughton & J. Berns (eds.), Locally led peacebuilding: Global case studies (pp. 108–116). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Schirch, L., & Campt, D. (2007). The little book of dialogue for difficult subjects: Practical, hands-on guide. New York: Good Books.

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VIII, 290
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (September)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. VIII, 290 pp., 4 b/w ill., 6 tables.

Biographical notes

Peter M. Kellett (Volume editor) Stacey L. Connaughton (Volume editor) George Cheney (Volume editor)

PETER M. KELLETT (Ph.D., Southern Illinois University at Carbondale) is Professor of Communication Studies at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His scholarly work focuses on narrative approaches to analyzing and transforming relational conflict to create more just and fair relationships. He is also active in narrative scholarship relating to health communication, as well as disability. STACEY L. CONNAUGHTON (Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin) is Associate Professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. Her research examines leadership and identification in geographically distributed contexts, particularly as these issues relate to virtual teams/organizations, political parties, and peacebuilding. Dr. Connaughton is the Director of Discovery Park’s Purdue Policy Research Institute (PPRI), and she serves as Director of the Purdue Peace Project (PPP). As PPP Director, Dr. Connaughton led the relationship building, project development, and monitoring and evaluation for locally-led political violence prevention initiatives in Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria. Dr. Connaughton is the recipient of Purdue’s 2017 Faculty Engaged Scholar Award, and Purdue’s 2018 Trailblazer Award—an award given to a midcareer tenured faculty member for innovation and impact in research. GEORGE CHENEY (Ph.D., Purdue University) is Professor of Communication at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. His teaching and research interests include identity in organizations, professional ethics, quality of worklife, globalization and localization, alternative ways of organizing, peace, and sustainability. Working solo or collaboratively, he has published ten books and over 100 articles, chapters, and reviews. He has held several administrative positions, including serving as director of Peace and Conflict Studies and the Tannewr Human Rights Center at the University of Utah. Cheney is a committed practitioner of service learning and has served on several non-profit boards or in a consulting capacity with them. He is a regular contributor of op eds to newspapers. Currently, he is at work on a series of articles about how cooperative structures can serve goals of economic justice, social transformation, and environmental sustainability.


Title: Transforming Conflict and Building Peace