Q and A: Humanities Center’s Gregg Lambert speaks on peace

By Kelly Homan Rodoski  //  Friday, August 31, 2012 

Source: http://news.syr.edu/?p=39819#more / Syracuse University News

Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and Founding Director of the Syracuse University Humanities Center, answers questions on the topic of world peace.

What is your perspective on world peace and how it can be achieved?

In her filmed segment for the Perpetual Peace Project (PPP), the renowned French writer and feminist Hélène Cixous spoke of the need for another horizon for explaining the idea of peace. The practical objectives of personal security and human rights are certainly important, and everyone can agree that they are preliminary conditions for peace, but they do not actually define the positive conditions of what it would mean to live in a peaceful society. The 9/11 attacks brought home for Americans what, for the most part, the rest of the world already knew: there is no safe territory, no security zone. It is for this reason that the idea of what philosopher Immanuel Kant called “perpetual peace” is becoming less an abstraction, and more of a practical necessity. My goals for this project are very simple: start to imagine what it would be like to live in a peaceful society.

You are one of the founders of the Perpetual Peace Project—an international partnership that is revisiting the prospects for world peace in the 21st century. What have been some of the outcomes of this project so far, including the unexpected?

The project actually began several years ago with a conversation that took place between an academic (myself), a curator and a working diplomat in the United Nations. We were inspired to start a “peace movement” and took Kant’s 1795 manifesto “Toward Perpetual Peace” as a conceptual platform for launching different events and exhibits. We approached the International Peace Institute, saying that we wanted to organize a conversation between philosophers and diplomats around the concept of peace, and we even traveled to Geneva in the spring of 2009 to present the project at the 10th session of the Human Rights Council . We also mounted exhibits at the New Museum and at the Utrecht University, in the Netherlands. Last spring, I even traveled to Seoul, Korea, to engage in a public conversation with the presidential candidate of the Progressive Party, and visited the DMZ to film a new segment for the video installation of the project.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama will visit the Syracuse University campus in October, a collaboration of Syracuse University and the One World Community Foundation. What kind of impression do you hope His Holiness leaves on our campus and community?

I think the scale of the event that has been imagined testifies to the continued importance and power of massive demonstrations for peace, and this is not entirely unrelated to what took place in the streets of Cairo during the Arab Spring. People can be motivated by an idea to come together to express a desire for something that transcends their everyday lives defined by anxiety and self-interest. The action of coming together is always invested with hope that something will change. Maybe that’s how transformations happen, in fits and starts. After the Dalai Lama’s visit is over, people in Syracuse and elsewhere in the region will return to their normal lives, but maybe something will have changed for us as well.

A weeklong series of Eat Together For Peace (ET4Peace) events—exhibits, performances and meals–will culminate in the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21 on the Kenneth A. Shaw Quad. Why are food, arts and culture good vehicles to promote discussions about peace?

There are many etymological and social origins for the concept of peace and they are often the most common. Almost universally, the word of greeting in many languages is an expression of peace. Eating together or sharing a common meal or breaking a fast is at its origin a ritual of hospitality that actually existed before the idea of religion. It’s a ritual of peace. In this program, organized by Marnie Blount-Gowan, we have even removed food as a necessary ingredient. It is simply the act of coming together of those who don’t necessary have anything in common to begin with, that is the most fundamental and basic ingredient for a peaceful society, the first course in the meal of perpetual peace.

Note: More information on PPP and clips of interviews can be found here.

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Perpetual Peace Project–North Korea 2012

In late-February, 2012, Gregg Lambert, one of the principal founders of the Perpetual Peace Project, traveled to the border of North Korea with Taek-Gwang Lee, a public intellectual and cultural theorist, to engage in a conversation on the concept of peace in relation to the Korean conflict, past and present.

The particular site chosen for the following documentary segment is the former North Korean Worker’s Party Headquarters, which now exists on the South Korean side of the DMZ, less than one hundred meters from the border of North Korea. The demolished building, constructed immediately after the Japanese occupation and partly destroyed during the Korean War, now serves as a memorial of the conflict and symbolizes the Korean people’s dream of “re-unification.”

Student Presentations Perpetual Peace Project – 1

Dear All,

We would like to involve everyone in our peace project; since we really want it to be PERPETUAL we need your help to keep the project alive. There is only one recipe to make an idea eternal and global: SHARE IT IN ORDER TO MAKE IT VIRAL.

Our purpose is to inaugurate a platform that could host an ongoing debate on the concepts of peace and freedom to fight against any forms of discrimination; we would like our project to become a shared work in progress able to give life to different events in different spaces and times.
We plan to start from here, our Utrecht, with a first simbolic event. To involve citizens we need to be as contagiuos as we can be, less academic than we are. Let’s start rethinking peace from our everyday life! Urban space is the space we belong to, the space we fight with and fight for.
How many barriers, boundaries and borders frustrate and affect us in relation to discriminatory practices?

We really hope Forbidden Forbidding will take the flight with you to visit different countries, seas, skies and squares. We, as (post-) human beings, and first as citizen, are asked to be responsable for any possible cosmopolitanism. Us, as everyone else that inhabit this schizophrenic planet.

Let’s keep the project in a corner of our suitcases, then visit the blog  (http://www.forbidden-forbidding.blogspot.com/) join us on the facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Forbidden-Forbidding/130178863769876?sk=wall) and upload your thoughts, your hopes, your pictures.

Use this adress as a commun account to share any comments, ideas or criticisms, and remember:

Forbidden Forbidding!

What does peace mean to you?

The Perpetual Peace Exhibition has been up for a week at the Utrecht University library. Many of you have come by to watch the clips of philosophers an practitioners speak about Kant and their notion of Peace.

What does peace mean to you?

Tell us by leaving a message on this blog!

For inspiration, watch these videos created and selected by students and staff from Beaconhouse National University (BNU) in Lahore, Pakistan speaking about what peace means to them.

Or  theses voices of architecture students at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in Kigali, Rwanda in conversation around the question: “What does perpetual peace mean to you?

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hqp%2BgtXKPQI width=”550″ height=”339”]