Culture and Violence
David Schmid, SUNY-Buffalo: "The Banality of American Violence"
John Hagedorn, University of Illinois-Chicago: "A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture"
If Peace Studies seeks to understand how to achieve peace in the world than students of Peace Studies must confront difficult questions about obstacles that stand in the way of peace. How deep do such obstacles lie? What causes them? Why do so many obstacles to peace seem so persistent and pervasive? The Conference keynote speakers will help us better understand one obstacle to peace that lives very close to home: the persistence of violence in American culture. From different disciplinary perspectives both of our speakers will challenge us to consider more fully the complexity of violence in American life.
David Schmid, professor of English, SUNY-Buffalo will begin with a consideration of the place of violence in American pop culture, identity and historic narratives. Professor Schmid suggests that common debates about the presence of violence in America tend to ask a limited range of banal questions while foreclosing on more resonant and difficult questions. In his lecture, Professor Schmid will outline a more productive direction for discussion about the complex relationship between violence and Americanness.
John Hagedorn, professor of Criminology, Law and Justice and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Illinois-Chicago will then offer his perspective on American gangsta culture. Urban gang culture has long represented some of the more disturbing possibilities for violence in America, and for many in America it would seem the answer would be a "war on gangs" that forces gang life to disappear. Yet Professor Hagedorn will tell us that to understand the social forces spawning gang life is to understand that gang life will not be going away soon. Rather, gang culture is growing in prominence all around the world. The way to face the problems of gangsta culture, Hagedorn tells us, is to reconcile with gangs rather than fight a war against them. Professor Hagedorn's talk utilizes rap music to invite us to see the problem from the side of the youth.
Following these presentations, speakers and attendees will have an opportunity to discuss the broad issues of culture and violence while exploring what implications our speakers’ addresses have for a "culture of peace" and what it might entail.