Saturday, June 11, 2011

Who uses knowledge?

Knowledge is power. Chandra Mukerji (2011) notes that, "As Foucault made clear, power relations are always and necessarily deeply intertwined with knowledge regimes" (p. 242). What do we do with our lives, how do we generate knowledge about that work, and who gets to use the knowledge? These are questions for us all, aren't they? Peace people often flee from any notion of power and peace educators often do the same. But when we do, we leave power on the table and others will likely come to it and take it for their own purposes, as Foucault observed.

Thus we see knowledge in psychology abused by torturers. We see knowledge generated by anthropologists hijacked into killing the very people so interesting to those anthropologists. And, yes, we have seen the knowledge of mediation and other Gandhian-type enterprises used to bring about settlement with evil when evil should be unremittingly nonviolently resisted. After all, peace is a squiffy word in need of modification in order to mean anything. When we who study peace contribute knowingly or unknowingly to a sort of Pax Romana of any sort, isn't it incumbent upon us to try to use our knowledge to promote a positive peace, a peace and justice by peaceable means?

Killing for peace is what the Air Force does with their bombs and what the Marines do with their kinetic sweeps into areas full of indigenous people only wishing to be left alone. In peace. This notion of peace is not what peace educators hope to support and our efforts to engage publicly are much harder to accomplish because the amassed power of the state is arrayed against us, however gloved the hand.

Do we succumb to a realistic notion of surrender and survival or do we rise to it and engage and learn to move our message and our knowledge so that it can prevent killing even as it promotes justice? This is the choice of every academic, but it also takes member of the public to express an interest. The notion of conversation is different than the idea of a lecture. Listening is a part of the art of communication; this is what educators do if they are good.

In the end, it is out of the generation of knowledge, a dialog with the public, and the willingness to dissent that will produce knowledge that is power for peace and justice by peaceable means. Anything less is inadequate.


Mukerji, C. (2011). Jurisdiction, inscription, and state formation: administrative modernism and knowledge regimes. Theory & Society, 40(3), 223-245. doi:10.1007/s11186-011-9141-9

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