Peace in Progress Nº 22

Living Along the Fenceline

The 65-minute documentary Living Along the Fenceline tells the stories of seven women who have seen how the presence of US military bases at their doorsteps affects their lives. Their individual experiences are representative of many silenced stories of communities around the world that live alongside US bases and endure the hidden costs of this fact on their land and on their culture.

The film, co-directed by Lina Hoshino and Gwyn Kirk, connects the stories of women from Texas, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Korea and Okinawa (Japan) and their efforts to create real security in their local communities. Through the narration of each personal story, this documentary tells a much greater story that describes in detail the negative impact US bases have on the local communities that house them. It also shows the strength and creativity of women’s activism that defies the predominant conceptions of military security. By following the work of women leaders of grassroots movements who act according to their visions and beliefs, the film provides us with alternative ideas of peace and security.

Intelligent compassion, by Catia Cecilia Confortini

The long life of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), which commemorates its 100th anniversary in 2015, has been possible, among other things, because of its capacity to revise its own proposals and change its policies and activism.

This capacity for change and the methodology used in the process are the objects of study of this book by Catia Cecilia Confortini, published in 2012 and based on her doctoral thesis. Confortini argues that the changes in the policies and ideas regarding peace that WILPF experienced between the years 1945 and 1975 were made possible by critical feminist methodology.

In an initial phase, WILPF framed its political discourse within the liberal order and believed that peace and, as a result, disarmament would be achieved with the help of laws and agreements between states. It trusted that science and technology, guided by reason and rationality, would guide humanity toward progress, creating a situation in which peace would be established.

In a second phase, WILPF began to understand peace as a result of the disarmament that would be achieved with the establishment of an economic order based on human needs and justice. It was during this phase that WILPF began to consider that disarmament and economic justice was of special interest to women; that they had developed skills that were useful to work for peace and that the objectives and principles of feminism were incompatible with militarism and the arms race. They therefore began to consider feminism as a political movement in favor of equality, the welfare of people and, ultimately, peace.

According to Confortini, WILPF’s vision of peace was transformed thanks to a methodology that promoted self-reflection on its ideas and practices, and a more participatory and inclusive decision-making system. The critical feminist methodology practiced by WILPF incorporated reflections on world visions, on knowledge and on methods that corresponded with values of peace. The interaction between these elements allowed the organization to break free from the trap of the context that gave it origin and shape, transforming and revitalizing itself, and preparing it for a century of history.

Antimilitarisme. Dinàmiques polítiques i de gènere dels moviments per la pau, de Cynthia Cockburn

In this book, Cynthia Cockburn’s analysis of social movements, the result of conscientious case studies, reflects an image of their internal dynamics and the different ways they carry out and propose actions and campaigns. The vividness she transmits comes from the way she deals with social movements, as collective forms of action that are always under construction by people who reflect on what they are doing. It should also be pointed out that Cockburn always focuses on the experience of women and is therefore particularly sensitive to the way in which the relationships between men and women develop within the social movements she discusses.

Documented with reliable information, mainly through in-depth interviews, the author reveals the coherence and contradictions in the speeches and practices of movements that share the common objective of making peace possible; this despite their divergence regarding their analysis of the causes of militarism and the strategies defended to eradicate it. Thus we are introduced to initiatives as diverse as the women’s peace movements in Britain at three moments of the 20th century, the antimilitarist and conscientious objection movements, the initiatives of Korean women to achieve the reunification of the two Koreas, the campaigns against US military bases in Okinawa and in the rest of Japan, a citizen’s initiative of solidarity with Palestine, or a transnational campaign against NATO.

The uniqueness of the book, which is based on a combination of rigorous research and a vital approach to the aforementioned movements, is probably related to the author’s academic career and personal options. Cynthia Cockburn combines her academic career in the Department of Sociology at City University London and the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, University of Warwick, with her commitment and participation in pacifist and feminist networks such as Women in Black against War and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Her experience in these two environments surely improves her academic knowledge – which connects with the reality she studies – and the rigor in the analysis and information about a reality that the social movements want to transform.

© Generalitat de Catalunya

Tools Left Right