Communicating a Culture of Peace in Aotearoa New Zealand: The vision of Peace through Unity
Narrative politics reframes how we cultivate knowledge in the academy, foregrounding the voices of research subjects and their relationships with researchers to re-embed scholars in the social world. Narrative affects the reader’s emotional capacities and fosters empathic understanding, encouraging a more human engagement with figures that have been made threatening, as Elizabeth Dauphinée explores in The Politics of Exile and Richard Jackson in Confessions of a Terrorist. Narrative politics is concerned with the question of how academics respond to the violence of war and whether the analytical tools of the social sciences are an adequate response to the human horror of war. The narratives of peace people are particularly compelling in the way they challenge the assertions of the dominant culture of wider society and the discipline of IR. Aotearoa New Zealand has a rich history of grassroots peace movements and activities that have influenced wider society. However, their stories are not well recorded in the dominant narrative of state institutions or academia. Peace Activist Elsie Locke published Peace People, a broad historical survey of peace activism from pre-European Maori to 1975. Maire Leadbeater brings the account up to 2013 in Peace, Power and Politics. All accounts emphasise that ordinary people were at the heart of activities, organisations and movements for peace. One of these ‘ordinary’ people left out of Locke and Leadbeater’s accounts is Gita Brooke, co-founder of the Whanganui-based charitable trust, Peace through Unity [PTU]. As a self-identified ‘peace person,’ Brooke has written much about their work and been involved in peace activities in Aotearoa NZ since the 1980s. Narrative politics provides a lens in IR to explore the story of Gita Brooke as co-founder of PTU. I show the contribution PTU has made and continues to make to a culture of peace in Aotearoa New Zealand and as a worldwide network, explored through the themes of education for global citizenship, transformation through thought-work, and responsibility for local action. It examines how PTU’s vision of a culture of peace has been communicated through the organisation’s newsletter, Many to Many, through its involvement with the United Nations as an accredited NGO, and through its local activities. Using archival sources, data from interviews and a content analysis of the newsletter, and complemented by the lens of and insights from the discourse of narrative politics, this study suggests that PTU provides a space for critical self-reflection in the pursuit of peace that challenges the thought/action binary of institutionalised NGOs. The deterritorialised publication, Many to Many, connects peace people through a networked area of mutual agreement that is inclusive, educative and transformative.