Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."

Baltic Summer School of Anthropology: Designing Peace

Project #
IH New York
  • Matiss Steinerts

Baltic Summer School of Anthropology: Designing Peace

For an “intense” five-day conference on ways to build peace through resolving conflict and solving tough issues, a team of six Latvian students drew teachers from five nations and 47 students from 14 countries, plus speakers from Latvia, Egypt and Jordan.

“Purposefully I have invited people from different conflicting regions, like Russia and Ukraine, and with opposite political views,” writes project leader Matiss Steinerts, who believes the diversity of opinions that were shared helped give the conference a “vibrant mood and respectful environment.”

“Project goals were to equip scholars and local thought leaders with knowledge of diverse practices of peaceful resiliency, global examples of managing conflict in a constructive manner” and “examples of failures from conflict zones,” Matiss writes.

Faculty members came from the U.S., Latvia, Slovenia, Estonia and Lebanon. The keynote speaker was peace anthropologist Douglas Fry, Ph.D., from the University of Alabama Birmingham. Students came from Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Italy, Sweden, Egypt, Russia, the U.S., Ukraine and Russia. The conference was conducted in English in the medieval Latvian town of Pelci, with modest entry fees helping cover the costs.

The students listened to lecturers and invited speakers and formed seven working groups; each group was tasked with devising solutions to conflict-related challenges. “In the last day they presented their work in an idea-fair panel to each other,” writes Matiss, who adds that the participants, all activists in their home countries, both gained useful knowledge and built new social bonds.