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My Take on the 2024 Carter School Graduate Student Symposium

I view a Master's Degree in Peace and Justice as a tool for challenging and reshaping the dominant narratives in peacebuilding, which often reflect Western imperialist perspectives. My research focuses on decolonizing human rights and ethical dilemmas in insurgency, aiming to dismantle power structures that exclude voices from the global south in Western-dominated discussions. Criticizing existing peacebuilding norms is not about dismissing my degree but about pushing the field to be more inclusive and reflective of diverse perspectives, ultimately contributing to more effective and equitable peacebuilding efforts.

I applied to present at the 2024 Carter School Graduate Student Research Symposium at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, aiming to broaden the conversation on decolonial peacebuilding discourse within the US academic community. The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University is renowned for its excellence, which amplifies the significance of participating in this symposium.

Out of 40 graduate students from universities in the United States and abroad, I was selected to present as part of a panel on Colonization and Decolonization in Peace and Conflict. My paper, titled “Beyond Violence: Decolonizing Human Rights and Ethical Dilemmas of Insurgency in West Papua,” was one of three panel presentations.

The 10-page unpublished paper investigates how the discourse on ethics and human rights abuses has historically been employed to deny the rights of marginalized groups. In this case, I argue that the armed insurgency movement in West Papua, despite its perceived inclination towards violence, might serve as an inquiry into the systemic oppression perpetuated by the democratic institutions. In this context, labeling the West Papua insurgency as 'terrorist,' accusing them of human rights abuses, and questioning the ethics of their insurgency—rather than scrutinizing the systemic oppression of the Indonesian government—only exacerbates the multifaceted discrimination and injustice against the Papuans. 

“What are we supposed to do to decolonize human rights and ethics?”

“Moving forward, what are you going to do with your Master’s Degree in Peace and Justice?”

I was asked such questions during the panel discussion. It made me ponder the relevance of starting academic debates in today's global peacebuilding efforts. However, Professor Susan Allen from the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution provided a reassuring perspective, stating that such debates should be seen as the first step toward a more feasible solution. This encouragement bolstered my confidence. Drawing from my Indonesian roots, I aspire to bring Western academia's attention to the challenges faced by the Global South. By emphasizing the often-overlooked contributions and insights from Global South regions, I aim to cultivate a more comprehensive and effective global peacebuilding framework that considers the diverse experiences and needs of all nations. This perspective is particularly vital for the United States academic landscape, enriching the discourse on peacebuilding with alternative viewpoints and strategies not traditionally considered in Western-centric approaches. 

Attending the symposium and witnessing other peace scholars present their papers inspired me to initiate a connection between peace scholars at the University of San Diego and those in the DC area (George Mason University, American University, Georgetown University, George Washington University), as well as other peace programs across the US (e.g., Notre Dame University, Kent State University, among others). I believe that the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego, while an exceptional program, is relatively isolated compared to its East Coast counterparts. Being the only major peace program on the West Coast, it may have fewer opportunities for collaboration and networking with similar programs, potentially limiting exposure to diverse perspectives and approaches in peace and conflict studies. Therefore, the idea of establishing a community of Peace Scholars across the US academic landscape is crucial. However, I recognize that turning this vision into reality will be challenging. Hopefully, my participation in the symposium has helped raise awareness of the Kroc School at the University of San Diego among scholars across the US.

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