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Interview Werner Wintersteiner

-How would you define peace education?

Three answers:

  1. Descriptive: A part / dimension / field of educational activities claiming to “educate for peace”. Despite this common claim there concepts of peace, of education, and of education for peace may be very different, sometimes even opposed.

  2. Normative: A practice aiming at both personal peacefulness and political readiness (and ability) to struggle for peace. Thus, the ideal of peace education is not peacefulness, but preparedness for work and struggle against violence at all levels, mainly social and political violence. Overcoming war and violence, not conflict!, is the very idea of peace.

  3. The theory of this practice: In German, one can make the distinction between Friedenserziehung (1 and 2) and Friedenspaedagogik (3).

-Is peacefulness something that can be learned?

Three answers:

  1. Yes. In the sense that you can learn a) some techniques of non-violent communication and behaviour, b) to understand yourself better, and to deal with your violent impulses and/or wrong ideologies. A very important precondition is to accept and to improve the personal dignity and the self-esteem of the learners.

  2. No. In the sense that no teaching and learning of peacefulness can guarantee that the learner will always behave peaceful, in any situation. It depends too much on the concrete circumstances, pressures, opportunities – and the will …

  3. This is not the point. As explained at the first question, peacefulness is not the central goal of peace education. A misconceived peacefulness can even be an obstacle for peace, since it can be a formula for a (hidden) cowardliness, or any incapacity to tackle with issues of war and violence.

-Can stories be helpful in peace education, given the fact that conflict is part of most stories?

Two answers:

  1. Yes. Oral stories, and children books, novels, theatre plays, movies etc. can help understand the feelings of others, i. e. empathy; are a way to make experiences (with conflicts) in a “protected area”; and can develop the sense of possibilities (Robert Musil)

  2. Yes. Stories deal with all dimensions of the human, from the individual to the social; the deal with conflicts, but they go far beyond. At the difference to sociological and political analyses, they are accessible and understandable to all, only a relatively low basic education is needed, no specific terminology is used, and stories (even the shortest ones) present always the “totality” of human life, not just an (abstract) “dimension”.

-What is the relation between peace and tourism?

Four answers:

  1. Tourism needs peace, to flourish, like most economies, but not all (arms production and trade for instance).

  2. Touristic activities in post-war situation can be a tool for strengthen peace initiatives, if (and only IF) they are planned and carried out as cooperation projects between the (two) ex enemies, as a win-win activity, helping to restart the economy and serving as confidence building measures …

  3. Tourism as a very popular social practice (cultural dimension) and economic activity (economic dimension) deals with many issues, including war and peace, for instance as heritage tourism, dark tourism etc. Thus, it makes sense to make also use of it for peace issues, as peace tourism does. However, this is a niche product.

  4. Peace sensitive tourism (see the book Wohlmuther/Wintersteiner Tourism and Peace 2014) is an overall concept that we propose in order to conceive, plan and carry out the whole tourism business as a peaceful social practice, including points 2 and 3, but much more.

-What is your opinion on multiculturalism?

Five answers:

  1. I have no “opinion on multiculturalism”. It is not about opinions.

  2. Multiculturalism is a word with many meanings, it is used in different contexts.

  3. One of these meanings is that if we are tolerant with the “culture” of other, no matter which one, a peaceful living together is guaranteed. This is an illusion.

  4. The unspoken idea behind is that cultural difference is the reason for misunderstanding, conflict and hate. Peace is just dealing with differences, but differences are not to reduce to the cultural sphere. Often, between so called cultural differences, power games are hidden. In this sense, multiculturalism may be sometimes a misleading perspective to understand the social reality. For instance, the attacks on the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in January 2015, is not understandable in terms of multicultural differences. This is not to say that cultural differences do not matter at all!

  5. Global citizenship education instead of multicultural education is, in my view, a more promising approach since the focus is on the political aspect, it is about rights and duties.

Professor Werner Wintersteiner, director of the Centre for Peace Research and Peace Education, Klagenfurt University, Austria

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