Peacemaking and Our Perceptions of the Future: Ann Mische, Sociology and Peace Studies

My first year of graduate school I
became very interested in this question of the impact of people's hopes for the
future on their lives. The dynamics by which you see yourself as having the
ability to actively transform your future or if you are resigning yourself to a
future that seems already made that you have no impact upon. The capacity to
project into the future is an essential component of our agency as
human beings. It's in our imaginations, but yet, it has a real impact upon what
we do. You know it draws us forward in different ways. There has been a fair amount of experimental work done in psychology about future cognitions but
what I want to do is take some of this cognitive work and see how it works at
the level of political interaction. How do our cognitions about the future, our
emotions about the future, how do these influence personal lives but also social trajectories and processes of social transformation more generally. My pilot project is to analyze
the discourse about the future at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development,
the RIO+20 meetings, as well as the accompanying People Summit in June of
2012. A phrase that circulated a lot of the time is "what's the future we want?" However, the "future that we want" varied dramatically. So what I am doing is taking
the documents of these meetings and looking at the narrative construction of
the future in these documents. The way that they focus on the short-term, the
medium-term, and the long-term, whether the future is told in a heroic mode or a
tragic mode, the genre. What's interesting to me is the way the people differently
positioned in a political field will be developing their ideas of the future in
a kind of dialogue. This dialogue, I think, is really important to
understanding the way that we address some of these issues which are critical
issues for the future of the earth. I am also interested in how this kind of
future oriented deliberation might relate to sites of peace building. So
let's say in a post-conflict situation as they're trying to rebuild the ways in
which differently positioned actors are talking to each other about the future
they want will have a really important impact on their ability to recover from
a complex situation. Right now I am teaching a course on
social movements, conflict, and peace building. We are trying to theorize
the role of contention as a vehicle for claims on justice and how that
contributes to the capacity or communities to prevent conflict as well
as to rebuild themselves in conflict situations. Working with students is
really giving me some guidance on what the new territory is that I would like
to go into in the next stage of my research. Students are often at the
cutting edge of reading and thinking and they're the ones who are pressing the
unanswered questions. They are really interested in thinking not only
theoretically but also practically about the ways in which different kinds of
social movement and civil society actors can contribute to peace building. There is
so many reasons why Notre Dame is a good place. I mean the sociology department
has excellent scholars, for example, in theory, culture, social movements. The
connections between the Kroc Institute and the Kellogg Institute are amazing to
me in terms of the possibilities. It's hard to imagine a better place right now
for me to be carrying out this line of work.

1 thought on “Peacemaking and Our Perceptions of the Future: Ann Mische, Sociology and Peace Studies

  1. This is just such important work. I've been reading almost all of Mische's research in my own thesis research process. Thank you so much for this video.

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