Season 3: Ep. 7: Building Changed Spaces for Peacebuilding in Filipino Contexts
Wendy Kroeker explores her research on peacebuilding and conflict resolution in the Philippines, and the island of Mindanao. Exploring the root causes of violence, we examine histories of colonialism impacting Moro, Lumad, and the Filipino residents. The podcast examines notions of transgenerational trauma, group identity, and retutoring the body through the practice of dialogue. Kroeker holds the possibility of the Tinikling dance and the sway of bamboo as metaphors for peace.
Key words: Filipino, Philippines, Mindanao, Moro, Lumad, Colonialism, Trauma, Transgenerational Trauma, Tinikling, Dialogue, Performance
Wendy Kroeker specializes in community conflict transformation processes as Associate Professor in Canadian Mennonite University’s peace and conflict transformation studies department and in locations around the globe. She has over 25 years of experience as a community mediator, conflict transformation trainer, peace program consultant, program manager for international development projects and university instructor. She has worked in the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh, and Palestine.
In addition to her teaching in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies, Wendy is the Academic Director of the Canadian School of Peacebuilding, an annual teaching institute of Canadian Mennonite University, bringing students from around the globe for courses in the fields of development, conflict transformation and peacebuilding.
Her research into the role of local and everyday peacebuilding has been published by Lexington Press (2020) and is titled: /Multidimensional Peacebuilding: Local Actors in the Philippines/.
1. How have colonial histories shaped the practice of peacebuilding and trauma healing work in the Philippines?
Volkan uses language of the large tent canvas and “time collapse” to describe how groups using rituals of remembrance in response to threat that can sometimes perpetuate violence. What modern-day examples of rituals of remembrance have been employed for nationalist or xenophobic violence? What role has music played within these constructions of violence?
How do the transgenerational impacts of traumas impact successive generations? How do they impact successive generations within colonialist contexts? How are transgenerational traumas being played out within North American in response to racialized structures and the uprooting of indigenous peoples?
Kroeker notes that approaches to trauma healing should avoid “mechanized approaches” and should be “thick” approaches that honor identity, gender, children, Ethnicities, and memory. How might trauma healing embrace “thickness”?
Read the article link about Father Bert. What inspires you about his work in native Tagalog to explore notions of kappa (concern for the Other)? What role does native language play in deepening localized understandings of peace and dialogue? [Paring Bert’s crusade](https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/227076-father-albert-alejo-crusade/)
How might spaces be reformed for “something substantive to emerge”? What role do the arts, like the Tinikling dance have in reforming colonial spaces of domination?
How might the body be retutored through the practice of dialogue? How might the arts participate in rituals and practices of retutoring?
1:45 Historical Context
5:20 Transgenerational Traumas
10:39 Volkan Trauma
13:26 Tent Canvas
14:35 Father Bert
18:18 Local Voice and Space
25:13 Lefebvre & Space
26:15 Tinikling Dance
31:11 Tinikling History
39:42 Retutoring the Body
47:24 Voices that Change
Gottdiener, M. (1993). A Marx for our time: Henri Lefebvre and the production of space. Sociological Theory, 11(1), 129-134. doi: 188.8.131.52
Kroeker, W. (2020). Multidimensional peacebuilding: Local actors in the Philippine context. Lanham Press.
Kroeker, W., & Leguro, M. (2022). Constant motion: Multi-dimensional peacebuilding for peace processes. In Susan H. Allen, Landon E. Hancock, Christopher Mitchell, & Cécile Mouly (Eds.), Confronting peace: Local peacebuilding in the wake of a national peace agreement (pp. 279-308). Palgrave MacMillan.
Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space (trans. D. Nicholson-Smith). Blackwell Publishing.
Mahmood, S. (2012). Politics of piety: The Islamic revival and the feminist subject. Princeton University Press.
Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute: https://mpiasia.net/
Article on Father Bert: https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/227076-father-albert-alejo-crusade/
Introduction to Mindanao Culture
KroekerPodcast - 6:16:22, 9.42 PM
Thu, 6/16 9:47PM • 51:35
peacebuilding, people, mindanao, bamboo, trauma, philippines, space, dialogue, thinking, dance, peace, community, story, metaphor, power, realizing, calls, local, muslim, transformation
Wendy Kroeker, Kevin Shorner-Johnson
Wendy Kroeker 00:00
Able to envision more deeply what peacebuilding really has to accomplish. Otherwise, we're doing that checklist. But thinking through how do we really practice those ways of being together that say this is our place, so that these spaces offer transformational opportunities.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 00:21
You are listening to season three of the music and peacebuilding podcast, a professional development network at music peacebuilding.com Exploring intersections of peacebuilding, sacredness, community, creativity and imagination. Through research and story. Wendy Kroeker specializes in community conflict transformation processes as Associate Professor in Canadian Mennonite University's Peace and Conflict Transformation studies department and in locations around the globe. She has over 25 years of experience as a community mediator, conflict transformation trainer, peace Program Consultant, Program Manager for international development projects, and university instructor. She has worked in the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh and Palestine. In addition to her teaching in Peace and Conflict Transformation studies, Wendy is the academic director of the Canadian School of peacebuilding and annual teaching Institute at Canadian Mennonite University, bringing students from around the globe for courses in the fields of development, conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Her research into the role of local and everyday peacebuilding has been published by Lexington press, and is titled multi dimensional peacebuilding local actors in the Philippines. My first question is, is asking you to maybe set some context for listeners who are not as familiar with Mindanao and peacebuilding work in the Philippines. So in your book, you note that to understand Filipino peace work, and in particular this region in the south of the Philippines that we must understand the imperialist and the colonialist context and historical harms. So I wondered if you could set this context of peacebuilding within Mindanao.
Wendy Kroeker 02:15
So the history of the Philippines and the island of Mindanao in particular is very complex. And as I wrote in the book, it is the basis towards understanding peace possibilities in the region. So war, the struggle for Colonial and Imperial domination, the movements of resistance that have emerged, the pushing of identities and boundaries are really entrenched within a story that involves the inhabitants of this region. So there are stories of violence, corruption, discrimination, injustice, exploitation in terms of people and resources are really the fabric of the communities that lived here. Within that history. There have been decades some would say centuries of calls for justice, attention to root causes, calls for the right to self determination for even basic needs to be met. poverty has increased for the indigenous and the Islamicized indigenous peoples called Moros, who are Muslim. And the settlers said admin brought him by the imperial powers from the North have gotten lots of land resources given to them to to motivate them to move to Mindanao. And that means that the original inhabitants of the island have either been pushed to marginal land or in the case of the Lumads, the indigenous up into the mountains.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 03:47
Prior to the arrival of Spanish colonialism, some 70 ethno linguistic groups inhabited the islands that are collectively referred to as the Philippines. Between 1300 and 1500 trade routes shifted, and a Muslim dynasty formed within the Mindanao Region. What followed was a series of colonialist subjugation and conquest from the Spaniards in 1572. To the Americans in 1898. And finally to the Japanese in the lead up to World War Two, colonizers used various oppressive forces of the sword, the Catholic Church, economic extraction, and the pacifying effect of education. overlapping the end of this colonialist history, were resettlements of Christian farmers to the island of Mindanao. Throughout the 20th century. These resettlements created enormous disparities between newly arrived Christian settlers, and displaced Moros and Lumads are Muslim and indigenous inhabitants. The 1976 Tripoli agreement and a series of peace negotiations led To the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Peace is tenuous, and requires continuous cultivation and dialogue that unwinds intertwined histories of traumas. And I wondered if if we might also be able to talk about trauma because I think trauma plays a big part in the history. In your book you talk about transgenerational trauma and also chosen trauma. I think I wanted to read a quote by you, you write the traumas, often, quote, reside deep within the culture, and is not simply banished after a generation. And you also talked about Volkan's Scholarship with chosen trauma about how we construct narratives of threats and fears. So can you talk about the degree to which peacebuilding in this place needs to embrace kind of a long transgenerational view of trauma and how trauma operates within communities?
Wendy Kroeker 06:01
Could I share a little story that I have in the book. So let me read a short story, I open up each chapter of my book with a personal story of my interaction with either the landscape, the context or with people as a way to ground that academic chapter. And the chapter on trauma starts with the story with a friend named Deng, who has been a longtime, very respected peacebuilder respected by all of the tribe people, for her ability to love, respect, listen, and really advocate for truth to be spoken. When I had my interview with her, she made the comment she emphasized, "it's the trauma of the intergenerational trauma. It's brought on by the colonial legacy. Because we have been colonized, then we're not used to thinking as one people, because we've been so much divided at the convenience of those who are in power, that we do not know how to be one. So we still have that in our psyche. So it's difficult. So my vision, she says, For Mindanao really is for us to sit together and start the process of really understanding what it is we want Mindanao to be, and how we are going to get there. What is it that we want to be? And she pauses at that point. And we together think about that question that she has put into the air between us. And she continues, we're so scared to speak about it. Because the one in power might silence us might castigate us. We might not get into heaven, all these things. So what I did, I didn't say in the history, but perhaps implied but the first colonizers being Spanish, the kind of story that gets told in the Philippines that the Spanish arrived with the sword in one hand and the Bible and the other. And there was this intertwining of both a military takeover. And the church, the priests, following the first generals or leaders off of the ship, and using religion as a way to pacify people. So we have a proud independent people who were living rich lives off the land, being forced into Christianity. And that came together with the political power that arrived in terms of the colonial legacy. And so that trauma of of the faith and spirituality as well as those external sort of boundaries that were given in terms of what they now could do, or, or not do, created this very deep sadness, negative experience trauma. And this trauma science is now telling us gets passed along in DNA. And so whether we intentionally do this, but the next generation, your children carry that story, not in their heads as something they can recite, but in a mode of response to what's happening to them. And Volkan then talks about a chosen trauma. And he defines that a, I quote, "mental representations of the tragedies that have befallen the group," end quote, and so there's a narrative that gets shaped from the experiences that becomes a narrative becomes the identity. And that's what gets passed on from generation to generation. So as one tries to think through, peacebuilding, and Deng says we're afraid they will silence us. They will castigate us in some way they physically harm us if we say who we really are. And so that challenge of doing peacebuilding in a context where people feel such a silencing whether we as outsiders can see where that silencing is coming from or not. That's carried through the body and to the next generation. The the new science on that is really quite shocking, shocking, because therapists counselors who work within that field, thought if I can just help this person or this community, then we stop it there, and we get this fresh start.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 10:39
As the cumulative effect of disappearances, torture and assassinations, Kroeker rights of tactics that crushed social and cultural institutions of a generation, and a silencing when memories are forced to disappear in order to survive. Kroeker writes that trauma healing work is not enhanced by mechanistic paradigms, but rather by "thick" approaches that honor identity, gender, children, ethnicities and memory. Dr. Kroeker and I spoke about Volkan's work, and the canvas of group identity. In his article on trauma, Volkan uses imagery of two garments, one that fits snugly, and represents an individual identity. The second is the canvas of a tent, through which a person shares a bigger story, and a sense of sameness within a group and collective identity.
Wendy Kroeker 11:39
Well, Volkan also says, and I love this quote of his chosen trauma becomes woven into the canvas of the tent, end quote, so this idea of the tent where we live, it's just in the air that we breathe. And so a lot of work is now being defined as trauma informed, trauma informed peacebuilding, for example, trauma informed education processes, applied in a lot of different contexts to acknowledge people are not just what you see on the surface. And we discovered this now as we're coming out of COVID. So much has happened to people in these two years of our isolation. And if we assume that we're simply the people we were when we last saw each other two years ago, we're going to make some missteps. Because people have had experiences they haven't had the opportunity to share. We are not the same people coming out of COVID, similar kind of dynamic in the Philippines thinking of trauma, informed peacebuilding. These are not people simply fighting for autonomy and their own right to self determination. This is carrying a whole big story, accountability to a people and the ancestors to be able to sink back into their ancestral space and live life the way they had hoped for, not marred or shaped by how that the Catholic nuns and priests told them in in school that they needed to act like or speak like in order to be good Filipinos.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 13:26
In times of peace, tent Canvas may hold expansive openings for a diversity of individual identities. However, during times of stress, quote, the garment of the tent canvas takes on greater importance, and individuals may collectively seek the protection of and also help defend their large group tent. Protective groups often enter time collapse to juxtapose generational grievances with the present. Within colonial histories, violence can be perpetuated in endless cycles, interrupting cycles of the fear of the other, Fathe, Bert is a Jesuit priest, who is called for a compassionate concern for the other, and an end to violence. His writings in native Tagalog name the importance of the inner self and relational interiority, along with the notion of kapwa, or concern for the other. Kroeker relayed the story of his transformation and impact. Yeah, I think at one point in this interview, I wanted to note just how much the story that you told a father Bert had so much meaning for me because I feel like his his story was one. I mean, I really sense that he was really wrestling within the stories that he told about where he was, what his role was, and starting to to embrace a sense of change as he started becoming near the Other
Wendy Kroeker 14:59
Father, Bert is an amazing person. So here's a Filipino Catholic priest who gets placed as a young priest for his first parish, in one of the key areas of fighting that was, you know, the decades of war all at war that was happening in Mindanao. And he saw his obligation to Catholics, and his parishioners, and would do what he could to save them. And he had some experiences where he was afraid both of military and of Muslims that would have been ingrained in him as a Filipino Christian that don't go near the Muslim communities, they, they'll kill you, they'll hurt you in some way, is based on their religion, they're violent people, this would have been the story that he would have grown up with. And so now as a priest, he's trying to save his his parishioners, from the violence that could come from the Muslims and from the war that's happening his area. At one point in the height of the war, everybody in the community was coming to the church to find refuge from the fighting that was going on. And he has this quote, in the book of "at night, I would hear mothers crying, and it didn't matter any longer, whether these were Muslim mothers or Christian mothers, indigenous mothers, these are mothers crying for the loss of their children." And he had a, we could say, a conversion experience, in that moment of realizing all humanity was lying there in front of him. And that he had the opportunity to bring people together to try and bring some some sense of, of safety of new relationships of a peace to that community and that he by changing his perceptions of who people were, could become a peacemaker within that region. And he has become someone, so loved by the tribe people in his community, for having that courage to step out of the confines of what the Catholic Church would sort of prescribe for him. And he was seen to be so radical that the Catholic Church transferred him to another parish. And people cried for days, I've been told, when they found that he was leaving, Christians, Muslims, indigenous, crying, this priest that had given them such hope and possibilities of living together, was being taken from them by the Catholic bureaucracy said, Ooh, this kind of theological action is getting too dangerous for us, which which tells you about the fragility of of many of those in power, when they see those who offer assistance to others as being the ones that are putting the church in jeopardy. Yeah, when she was moved back to that parish, that the calls were just so great, and of course, that the church has had its own transformation during these decades as well. And he continues amazing work.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 18:19
So I want to get to your metaphors. But I think before we do that, I think we also need to talk about this transformation that's happening in peacebuilding about local voices. So your work is grounded in the importance of local space and agency. And I really love your quote about local space, you state "space is never empty, it always embodies a meaning and thus there is forever the potential for something substantive to emerge." So I wondered if you could speak about meaning filled local space and the power of local voice in this work that you've been doing?
Wendy Kroeker 18:54
Maybe I'll say is just a background or to that in the peacebuilding field, Much of the start of the peacebuilding field serves, you know, the last 50 years of sort of concretizing and creating institutions and that kind of thing came out of what a lot of it would be at the United Nations in terms of looking at post conflict reconstruction, and the need of outsider international third parties as being necessary, or helping to reconstruct societies overcome by whatever the conflict violence was in that region. And so a lot of our peacebuilding work was was imagined around what that third party and eventually we got to ethical conversations, realizing that third parties could do harm. So a movement called by Mary Anderson "do no harm," but still that kept the international third party is front and center in terms of salvation of people within that violence, conflict impacted region. And it's only been really maybe started being uttered in the last, say 20 years of looking to the wisdom, the power of what comes out of a local context, of third party folks realizing we can't accomplish anything, we don't know that culture, what might be key key symbols and avenues for bringing people together. And listening to this kind of thinking it might be like, how could people not think that local folks could be the ones to find the solutions to their own problems? Well this has been the plight of Western doers and thinkers, for centuries, that we have the handle on what's what's best and have the resources monies, that kind of thing that will move things forward. So that's been a change within the peacebuilding field, quite a transformation. Local voice... has really been a move to a kind of humbling respectful way of imagining peacebuilding of sitting together, hearing into spaces, what do people need? What do people mean when they say we want the right to self determination, it means setting with traumas with people. Lefebvre who is probably the maybe the most famous writer about space calls, let me just make sure that I get the quote, correct here. Place happens when we have practiced space. So place meaning the place we belong, the place that has meaning for us, happens only when we acknowledge who we are in the spaces in which we find ourselves and begin to practice, social practice says that move us back together as human beings. So space to place is kind of a has been a philosophical theme. And I thought to apply that to peacebuilding in the sense of what happens when people in local communities are attentive to what each other needs. So it's not just oh, we live in this island, but that this island has this history of people collaborating together, fish in the same waters together, we practice our social practices together such that the place becomes this place for all of us. And some of the transformational things that have been occurring in some of these very violence impacted communities is that Muslims stand outside the church on Easter Sunday, and greet Christians coming out with bouquets of flowers. And Christians preparing food and joining Muslims at the end of Ramadan, their feasting. That it's not an antagonistic relationship of we're two different religions. And one is right and one is wrong, but to say, we are peoples of faith together, we will support each other in substantiating and celebrating our faiths knowing that when we are the best of our faiths, we are the best together. That only comes when it's local people saying what do we have invested here? How can we? How can we continue on together, move to better places where we have a potential for us to flourish together. So spaces where we become deliberate, seeing and you know, seeing each other's faces, looking into other's eyes, being deliberate in those spaces to acknowledge who we are, and that we've all been here for centuries and can name our generations. That's the kind of space where something substantial can happen. And that's been a slow change, because so much pain has been has happened historically with each other. But realizing a lot of that pain was initiated by an external party that was trying to divide and conquer, which is the oldest military strategy in the world probably. And realizing we can coexist, we can co-habit this space.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 24:38
However, I really need to check out that resource from Lefebvre, I had, I don't think I had heard that idea of place and space. That's fascinating.
Wendy Kroeker 24:46
Yeah, I found that meaningful and a way to then be able to envision more deeply what peacebuilding really has to accomplish. Otherwise, we're doing a checklist But thinking through how do we really practice those ways of being together to say this is our place, so that these spaces offer transformational opportunities,
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 25:13
and naming space where something substantial can happen. Kroeker sites Lefebvre as a seminal thinker on the production of space. Lefebvre's space is simultaneously physical, mental and social. He notes how power is articulated through space, and how our mental representations and beliefs impact the social realization of space within the potential for quote, "something substantive to emerge." Lefebvre notes that social change cannot occur without a changed space. I realize that colonial space is a space of fragmentation and disconnect in the service of domination. Lefebvre and Gottdiener contrast, the Greek agora with the cemented structures of Roman power, one spatial structure was open and fluid, and the other was cemented, and hyperfocused toward power centered voices. As I watch video, after video of tinikling dance, I understand that the arts are powerful, because they are a reforming of space. To watch tinikling is to watch a collective focus, entrainment, and coordination of rhythmic bamboo poles, steps claps and music. A collective is held together in dance that continues to reform and subvert colonial pasts. So Hip Hop tinkling, this is a great example of something that comes out of local voices, I think you had prepared a particular metaphor for them, they were like, Nah, doesn't really fit. And so with your participants help you centered on hip hop, which I think my music listeners are gonna love. So would you talk about hip hop, tinkling, and what this metaphor holds for peacebuilding, and also maybe what the art form is, the symbolism that's at play here, and why it transfers as a metaphor for peace.
Wendy Kroeker 27:14
I love metaphors. And Filipinos also are very creative. They're there, many of their local languages use picture words to describe concepts and ideas. And so I really wanted and hoped that I would come up with a metaphor that really captured the kind of things that people were talking about. And there is a lot of dancing at every kind of Filipino gathering. And so I thought, yes, it's like a dance, you have your partners, you got to work together, we may step on each other's toes at times. And so I did a trial run with all of the people that I interviewed, I went to the Philippines, I threw a party for the folks that I interviewed and presented my preliminary findings to see what they would think of what I came up with what I'd heard from them. And so I presented this idea that Filipino peacebuilding is like ballroom dancing, which they're so expert at. And I felt very underprepared at many places to do all the various dances that they were doing. And so I said this, and there was silence in the room. And of course, you know, whenever there's that silence, you go, un-oh what what just happened here? And a very good peacebuilding friend stood up, and he said, Wendy, we really liked you. You've been with us for 25 years. But we can't live with that metaphor. Those dances came to us from the colonial powers. And yes, we have embraced them and enjoy, enjoyed them. But this is the link to to intergenerational trauma. Those dances were forced upon them with the exclusion of their own dances, and they lost many of their own dances. And they only know now this ballroom dancing, but yet they are coming to realize there's a trauma story that's connected to them being able to be really great ballroom dancers. So I said, Okay, let's just right now start, help me think through what would be an appropriate metaphor. You've heard the kinds of things I've heard from you. The kind of themes and the beauty, what I'm seeing of your local peace building. And then Lindy says, Wendy, I think it should be tinikling. And that's an indigenous dance that has been recovered. And then she said, Actually, I think you need hip hop tinikling. So let me say What tinikling is and then I'll say what Hip Hop tinikling is. Because there's this kind of progression of, of being, of discovering identity within that progression. So tinikling, is a traditional, at least 200 year old dance that is done with four people. So in pairs, they hold a bamboo pole, and they hold these bamboo poles parallel to each other, and they pound them on the ground, and then they bang them together, and they keep going ground, and then bang them together, ground and then bang them together, and they had this beat that they do. And then the dancers have to move intricate steps in between this moving bamboo. And I've tried this several times. And if you try to do these fancy moves, and you don't get your ankle out in time, your ankle is crushed between these two bamboo poles that was popping together the history of that dance is that if the tinkling it, thinks, is maybe from the tinkling bird that had kind these long stork like awkward legs. And they're kind of mimicking the movement of the birds legs. But would get done in the evening, they can see it's from the bird, because that's where the name kind of comes from. But it was to communicate with each other that every day if we don't harvest enough sugarcane, we get punished. And so we have to be agile on the on the sugarcane field so that we don't get punished by the Hacienda owner. And so in the evening, to celebrate that they've made it through a day, another day, they would do this dance, and when the Hacienda owners would come and see what they're doing, oh, we're just doing our dances. But the dance was to give us strength for the next day to overcome the super violence that was in their midst. And so everyone, even now, this this dance has, has lasted through the centuries, and every school kid learns it. But now of course, a new generation has come forward and sort of thinking, Oh, that's an old dance. And when hip hop came up, you know, kids are listening to hip hop at the same time as the elders are doing this tinikling. And somehow those two like they were coexisting at the same fiesta party, and came together were some of the young folks as they would do their dance moves in the tinikling, realize they could add their hip hop beat into it. And so they would enter on the side with hip hop dance moves, and then move into the space of the clapping bamboo, and do moves and then exit into hip hop moves. And it's really amazing to watch. They've been able to add to this narrative of, we will survive. That is really quite powerful in its well, it being sort of a story of hope that we have an identity that that will survive the colonial, Imperial domination, the corruption, the discrimination that we've experienced, and celebrate it with this dance that tells a story, and has added new challenges for the new younger generation to keep holding that story. And oftentimes, we have stories that don't capture the younger imagination, thinking oh, that's back then. This has been this beautiful melding of the ancient dance. With a new music form to say, we we can still be in that space of the old dance with the issues for young people in today's time.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 34:15
That's just a lovely story. I love that story of how that metaphor holds resonance. I would love to ask you about performance and performance of dialogue. In this book, you you draw on the work of Judith Butler and her notion of performativity. You write, "the agency of a group can be developed through events such as dialogue that nurture and interiority of desired changes. This means that we have the opportunity to incorporate that of which we are speaking into the depths of our being." It's, it's about kind of performing your way into a new way of being or really using your body to move into that space. Could you help me understand performativity at a little deeper level, and what role this plays in peace work?
Wendy Kroeker 34:58
Again, I'll take a little step Back, as I listened to the folks that I was interviewing, and asked about, what was some of the peace work that they were doing? Many of them, maybe all of them mentioned, the importance of dialogue. And again, that fits into that, that space into place, kind of conversation we had earlier, of really their desire to say we have to sit together to be transformed. And dialogue is a format that provides for that. And they do this on a community basis, community level, where people would sit together in a circle, and a facilitator, an elder or an outside facilitator, would bring them into conversation around a set of questions to help them explore where the tension points lie, as I listened to them, them describing dialogue, I realized they were describing in a different way than I experienced today, in my North American context, they all talked about, we have our dialogue. And then when we go out, we think differently, we are different, we have a different way of being. And every person talked about that. And I started thinking there's, they have an expectation or a hope that it's not just this term around the circle, but there's a life transformation that needs to that they hope occurs, or an accountability that we walk out of here as different people by having placed ourselves into this context and this experience of this dialogue. James Austin is the one who's coined the term performativity. And in its kind of original technical definition, I'll quote from Austin, it's an utterance that brings what it states into being, or it makes a set of events happen." And I realize often in North America, we think of dialogue is these words, in the space in which we are, performativity theory is that when we state something, so the classical example of Austin, is that of a marriage ceremony, when people say I do to each other. And in that second, they are transformed from people living separately to people living together. So they this utterance is, is this almost magical moment of you are now in a new reality. So thinking through the kind of dialogue I was hearing from folks was, these are not just words, we say. And we're not just checking this off for an international development project that says, OK, twice a year, you've got to bring X number of people, equal number of men and women into these kinds of processes. These are engagements, where they call people together, to share their truth with the expectation that they are new people when they walk out of the door. And that is performativity theory in action. And when you have that expectation, that gap there there is this power in gathering, such that when we speak from our heart, there is this hope and this expectation that transformation will take place. And talking with many people who have been part of these dialogues, this is also the story they tell. They exchange cell phone numbers with each other as they walk out. They may go to the little coffee kiosk and grab a coffee before they take their bus back to their village. You see that happen... And they don't say it at the start of the dialogue. Okay, we expect you to chain exchange cell phone numbers. At the end, we expect to drink coffee together. There's something about how these facilitators and it can only be local have a wisdom to know that we were meant to live together and before the colonizers came, we lived together. And so they're grabbing that those deep reaches of the past to say we lived together, we can come back into that space of being able to live together.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 39:42
Dialogue that creates a different way of being. Kroeker encourages the magical moments of utterances in spaces with the hope of bending, change and transformation. Bamboo was a key metaphor in multi dimensional peacebuilding that symbolized a movement, a conversational flexibility that listens, quote, to the inner nudges of the moment. Bamboo sways and bins to the winds, illustrating the back and forth dialogue and, quote, the hope of finding paths for reconciliation. Paths of reconciliation may require a re-tutoring of the body, a kind of action, often found in the utterances of dialogue. Mahmood is a leading thinker who extends Butler's performativity. In her studies of action, agency and ethics within Islamic politics of piety. Kroeker introduces Mahmood's work,
Wendy Kroeker 40:47
she talks about the piety of Muslim women and the veil of retutoring the body, and I loved her work on looking at Muslim woman piety as a way to think through what was happening in the dialogue circle, that by that gathering together, uttering the words, we are retutoring the body, I found that a beautiful thing and realizing we have so much muscle memory we go on. And we have to change the way we do things which can take some physical effort, but can also take a huge amount of risk. So knowing that when they come out of that dialogue, and they exchanged cell phone numbers, or Christian with a Muslim, vice versa, that's a courageous act. So this small moment of conversation has created a courageous retutoring of how they do community together, that others who weren't in that moment aren't going to understand how they could now strike up a friendship with the ones that were, you know, are going to kill all the Christians. But they have been retutored within this performative environment that helps them be do think speak in a new way. And this kind of deep engagement I think really lies at the hope of what can happen in Mindanao.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 42:23
So you talk about flexible bamboos as your other metaphor as a way in which kind of there's this give and take within peacebuilding conversation. So could you talk about why this, why this metaphor matters?
Wendy Kroeker 42:36
One of the people that I interviewed, he's affectionately fondly referred to as chairman Iqbal. He has been in the leadership of the MILF the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, he was a jungle commander for decades in the armed conflict against the government of the Philippines, and is now the group with whom the government has signed a peace agreement. And at one point, he said to me, a quote something like "for our survival, we need to bend like the bamboo." That's, that's what got me thinking that every place I was at, either the table was made of bamboo, the house was made of bamboo, the cup was made of bamboo, the... almost anything could think of the jewelry that women wore was made of bamboo. It was ubiquitous everywhere. And I thought, yeah, just like the tinikling was a metaphor that captured the way people move together. Bamboo was something that linked to their survival. It was everything. It was food, it was utensils, it was building materials. And so when Chairman Iqbal said we need to move like bamboo. I started to research how, how does bamboo move? and I realized there's two kinds of bamboo. There is the kind of bamboo that shares root a root system underground, so we don't see it. But each bamboo is connected to another underground, it's rhizome. And then there is clumping bamboo that just likes to situate itself together. And so I thought about those two very basic kinds of bamboo plants and thought, I discovered two basic ways that Philippine peacebuilders interact with the communities that they're working with. So I talked about the ones that go between. Now those underground rhizomes of those who have the ability to move as an insider into another community and be an insider there and accept it, and that they can be a conduit to building a new relationship together. And then there are those who come alongside. They clump together, the solidarity folks who are building stronger communities are embedded within their context and strengthening their communities for constructive peace work. And so, bamboo is this incredible plant that's strong enough to build your house, but yet is technically a grass. It provides nourishment and food and I thought, what better way to describe Philippine peacebuilders and their work than using bamboo as a metaphor that, that captures the kind of efforts and ways of being that they have. And knowing that there are not just there isn't just one kind of bamboo, there are many different kinds of bamboos. And so there are different kinds of peace builders that have their, their asset grounded in a slightly different space than the other, and each providing something essential to what it really means for this, the groups of people that are living in Mindanao to flourish and to do more than survival to flourish together, despite the external pressures to keep them apart. So Iqbal's comment that we need to bend like bamboo is the other thing. It's not a plant that snaps. It can withstand typhoons of great magnitude, and sway to those challenges, still keeping its integrity and being able to survive for another day, to provide life and livelihood to the peoples around it. So it became for me a powerful way of imagining these Philippine peacebuilders that I see have so much courage, so much wisdom, so much deep care for their people to survive well together. And they are bending in the wind.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 42:38
I asked Dr. Kroeker if there was anything that I hadn't asked her, she closed by relaying the story of how she found herself holding these stories as the center of her research.
Wendy Kroeker 47:36
A question though, that got asked of me of my research, why you Wendy, a prairie girl from Canada is researching Philippine peacebuilders? In 1996, I went to the Philippines as the development worker with an organization called Mennonite Central Committee, lived in a community two years, went home, they, the community asked for me to come back. So my family and I went for another two years, and I have now been in the Philippines other than COVID times, every year to work with communities, work on projects do teaching, to listen, this is getting on to the 25 ish years or so. When I was contemplating a PhD, a couple of Philippine friends came to me and said, Wendy, can you do us for your research? I said, What do you mean, do you? Can you look at Philippine peacebuilders Wendy, we are so busy doing the work, we have no time to reflect. But if you would ask us to reflect with sit down with us for an interview, we'd be forced to stop and reflect. And so one thing I would just add, I was so honored to be asked to do that. And I'm so honored to hold these stories and share these stories, and which is why each one of them said Please give our real name. We are real people. These are our stories. And so I, it was a labor of love to say hear voices that other people should hear and not just me. So that's the origins of this project. So just add that piece.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 49:24
Kroeker closes the chapter with the note. Given the voices that I have listened to for this project, I have come to believe that peacebuilding must be lodged within the discussions of transforming structural violence, conversations of root causes, and all oriented toward a potential for human flourishing. Local actors need to emerge as the prime contributors to perspectives essential for sustainable peace platforms. I reflect on the power of dance and metaphor To reform space and inhabit a retutoring of the body, as we sway and bend, forever being formed and changed, while held by the shared roots of community. May we collapse endless cycles of harm unweaving looms of colonial thinking, reforming spaces that collapse distance and weave strands of relation and allow our ears, our mouths, our bodies, our beings to retutor us. Dancing tinikling steps, paths, and a bamboo swaying to the inner nudges of the moment. Dr. Windy Kroeker's book multi dimensional peacebuilding local actors in the Philippine context is published by Lexington press. Other resources mentioned in this podcast can be found on our website. This is the music and peacebuilding podcast hosted by Kevin Shorner-Johnson. At Elizabethtown College, we host a master of music education with an emphasis in peacebuilding. thinking deeply we reclaim space for connection and care. Join us at music peace building.com