Notes from the Director

Greetings from the Peacebuilding and the Arts Program. I have just returned from Israel and Palestine, where I spoke at the 4th International Conference on Peace and Reconciliation, Mediating Peace: Reconciliation through Art, Music and Film in Jerusalem. I was inspired by many creative artist/peacebuilders, who courageously shared the dilemmas they confront working in regions of violent conflict.  

While in the region, our Acting Together documentary was screened with Hebrew subtitles at Tel Aviv University and with Arabic subtitles in Nablus at the Palestinian House of Friendship. Many thanks to Brandeis alumna Elaine Reuben who has generously supported the translation of the film. We now have a version with Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and Japanese; Tamil and Sinhala will be following soon. 

In this newsletter we focus on Native American approaches to peacebuilding. You can read an essay by Dr. Polly Walker about the ceremonies of dance and song in Native American peacemaking. Polly is an Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, and a co-editor of theActing Together anthology.

It is heartbreaking to witness the current escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine, and add our voices to those calling for creative approaches to resolving the many conflicts in the Middle East in ways that respect the dignity and rights of all of the people of the region.


All the best,


Cynthia E. Cohen, Ph.D., Director
Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts


Honoring Native American Peacemaking

Ceremonies of Dance and Song in Native American Peacemaking by Polly Walker
“When we dance, every time our foot hits the ground, it is a prayer” (Tsani Grosvenor, Cherokee).

Grosvenor’s description of prayerful dance typifies Native American peacemaking, which seeks to maintain and restore balance and harmony to vast networks of relationships among living humans, ancestors, generations to come and the natural world. These processes also seek to restore balance within each individual, bringing harmony to the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical aspects of human experience. Native peacemaking could be described as processes that assist people to live in harmony with … Read more. Also see Polly Walker’s case study for the Acting Together project.


Featured Arts and Artists 

We Still Live Here (Âs Nutayuneân): Documentary film by Anne Makepeace
This documentary film about the revival of Wampanoag language (Âs Nutayuneân) tells a remarkable story of cultural revival by the Wampanoag of Southeastern Massachusetts. Their ancestors ensured the survival of the Pilgrims in New England, and lived to regret it. Now they are bringing their language home again. This inspiring and award- winning documentary was filmed by a filmmaker, Anne Makepeace, and has been shown in at various locations around the world. See the screening schedule for upcoming events. Read more.

Singing for peace and hope: Joanne Shenandoah, Native American singer
Joanne Shenandoah, Ph.D, is one of America’s most celebrated and critically acclaimed musicians. She is a Grammy Award winner, with over 40 music awards (13 Native American Music awards).  She has captured the hearts and souls of audiences all over the world, from North and South America, South Africa, Europe, Australia and Korea, and has been praised for her work of peace and hope. Visit her website to learn more. Hear her songs in person at the upcoming concert in New York on November 24th!


Art work exploring the impact of sex trafficking and abuse within Native American communities by Geri Montano
Geri Montano's recent works of drawings and collages explore the shadow side of Native American communities including sex trafficking and abuse. Geri speaks of her new work as, “exposing what many would rather not see—the consequences of colonization: poverty, lack of employment opportunities, drug and alcohol addiction, racism, isolation on rural reservations, lack of health care, and epidemic sexual violence." Visit her website to see more artworks.


Read about more arts in News from the Field on our website.

Recent Events at Brandeis and Beyond

In September, The Ethics Center hosted a series of events with Farhat Agbaria, a Palestinian-Israeli facilitator of dialogue. His residency was planned in conjunction with Dor Guez: 100 Steps to the Mediterranean, an exhibition which opened at The Rose Art Museum during the residency. While at Brandeis, Farhat participated in fourteen meetings with classes, clubs, and members of the faculty, and co-led with me two weekend workshops “Facilitating Encounters through Art.” Read Cindy’s reflections on Farhat’s visit.

In October, Dr. Cindy Cohen co-convened with Professor Michelle LeBaron (Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia) a roundtable on Resilience, Arts and Social Transformation, hosted by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC. Dr. Kim Berman of South Africa, a 2002–2004 Brandeis International Fellow, launched the roundtable with extraordinary images of Artist Proof Studio, her own artwork and projects that have reached hundreds of communities grappling with the scourges of AIDS and of poverty. Participants connected with experts in neuroscience, art history, law, expressive arts, dance and anthropology in a truly trans-disciplinary and multi-modal inquiry.


Opportunities and Resources

Cultural Expression in the Wake of Catastrophic Violence: Art and Healing Panel
November 20
Brown University, Rhode Island, USA

This panel focuses on the uses of performance and visual art in address to healing from trauma, in cases of genocide and war. These panels coincide with "Soulographie: Our Genocides," a 17 play-cycle by Theater Arts Performance Studies Professor, Erik Ehn, developed in part by Brown and performed at La MaMa in New York.


International Peace Research Association (IPRA) Conference in Japan 
November 24-28
IPRA is convening its bi-annual conference in Tsu City, Mie, Japan. This year’s conference explores the following themes: music and conflict transformation; visual art and peacebuilding; music therapy; documentation, assessment and evaluation of work at the nexus of art, culture and peacebuilding; the contributions of theatre and ritual to the creative transformation of conflict; and developing a global infrastructure to support the peacebuilding/arts field. Read more.


Music and Transformation:
The Performing Arts and Restorative Justice
November 30 & December 1
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada
This conference will focus on conflict transformation and restorative justice through the performing arts within contexts ranging from international peacekeeping to local prison life. Themes to be addressed in detail at the conference are: Reclaiming the Value of Vulnerability, Reclaiming Life After Genocide, Reclaiming the Embodiment of Justice, Reclaiming Voice: Along the Path Toward Healing Justice, and Reclaiming the Harmony of the Law. Read more.


Call for Proposals: Inaugural Issue of “Public: A Journal of Imagining America”
Imaging America (IA) is announcing the launch of their new journal by the name of “Public: A Journal of Imagining America.” The theme of the first issue will be “Linked Fates & Futures: Communities and Campuses as Equitable Partners?” IA is seeking submissions about questions such as: “What makes for effective and sustainable partnerships between higher education and cultural and community organizations?” and “Where and for whom are programs designed, and what is their long-term impact?” Submission formats can include written essays; visual and/or sound projects; design projects; case studies; profiles/interviews; or repurposings of archival material. IA will begin accepting submissions in early 2013. Read more.


Call for Submissions: Peace Studies Journal

The Peace Studies Journal was founded in 2008 out of the initiative of the Central New York Peace Studies Consortium to publish the articles presented at the annual Peace Studies Conference, and is now an international interdisciplinary free online peer-reviewed scholarly journal. The goal of the Peace Studies Journal is to promote critical scholarly work on the areas of peace, nonviolence, social movements, conflict, crisis, ethnicity, culture, education, alternatives to violence, inclusion, repression and control, punishment and retribution, globalization, economics, ecology, security, activism, and social justice. Scholars, activists, and community leaders are invited to submit and publishing dates are quarterly: Jan 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. Read more.


Read about more opportunities and resources in News from the Field on our website.