Peace studies has produced an abundance of research and created numerous programs and courses. Despite these successes, the field is far from establishing itself as a valued part of the academic community. This project rests on the assertion that peace studies struggles for scholarly legitimacy and visibility within U.S. higher education. Based on this premise, it seeks to investigate the different kinds of beliefs about peace studies that have been produced, maintained, and reproduced. The aim is to understand the contemporary condition of peace studies and explore the possibilities and limitations of theorizing, researching, and teaching about peace in the U.S. academy.
A Foucauldian-informed poststructural analysis examines qualitative survey and interview data collected from 55 prominent U.S. scholars in the fields of international relations, peace studies, and peace science. First, a descriptive analysis of peace studies scholars’ perceptions identifies three precepts of the field along with a strategy, to “make the world a better, more humane, place.” Second, a comparative analysis of peace studies from scholars working within international relations and peace science shows that peace studies faces the predicament of being nearly invisible within international relations and on the other side of an epistemological and methodological divide from peace science. Finally, a discourse analysis describes the discursive structures and rules of knowledge production that govern the way that scholars think, speak, and put into practice items associated with peace studies.
The study concludes that peace studies suffers from a problem of coherence that strikes at its core objects of knowledge, subject positions, and knowledge production. Furthermore, the field desires to transform, transgress, and transcend the traditional policies of the U.S. academy. Thus, it battles historical and contemporary perceptions of (1) what qualifies as legitimate “scholarship” in terms of traditional disciplinary specialty, substantive content, agenda, and method, (2) what it means to be a “scholar” in U.S. higher education, and (3) what the study of “peace” should include in its parameters. Recognizing these challenges, peace studies scholars are urged to reconsider their relationship to the broader academic community through an examination (and possible reframing) of their multiple subject positions.