It was mid December 2014, I was at home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, reading and struggling to write my dissertation when I received the Alumni Network newsletter from the University of Innsbruck’s MA Program for Peace Studies. These emails always make me happy because, although far away and not able to participate in most of the activities, they recall memories of special experiences and great friends from the time I studied there. In this particular email, there was a call for the Innsbruck Academic Festival of Many Peaces, to occur in Innsbruck in August 2015. The call resonated with me immediately as I read it.
Having graduated more than five years ago and now being involved in different activities in the field, I have always been grateful for what I have learned and lived in the program. My experience studying in the peace program made me a more present person. It made me more aware of my weaknesses and strengths and provided me with the tools to work on them. I also had the opportunity to practice and assess the importance and potential of the Innsbruck School of Peace Studies’ elicitive approach to conflict transformation in the field.
Nevertheless, after some years I felt a longing for deepening these experiences and strengthening my connections with the network. For this reason, I kept going back whenever possible to alumni meetings, opening ceremonies and gatherings in Brazil. These activities nurtured my motivation and widened my perceptions. That is why the proposal of the Festival resonated so deeply with me.
Developed by alumni, the aim of the festival was to combine theory, practice, exchange and inspiration from the field, while strengthening the alumni network.
Some people ask what makes the Innsbruck Program so special. There are many aspects, but I would like to emphasize its combination of high academic skills, a human approach to theory and intense practical activities. What distinguishes the program the most is perhaps the dedication to living what is said and proposed, on the part of both faculty and students. Needless to say that a festival based on such a scope is very attractive and unique. From my experience, I can say the festival not only met my expectations but exceeded them. Developed by alumni, the aim of the festival was to combine theory, practice, exchange and inspiration from the field, while strengthening the alumni network. Acknowledging the many forms of knowing, the festival offered three possibilities of participation: the theorist track, the practitioner track and a space for peace talks. I joined the theorist track and the peace talks. Writing and preparing for the festival was a journey in itself, through which I could gladly count on the caring encouragement of the organizing committee. Nevertheless, this journey was just a step compared to the actual event.
Supported by the always-receptive team of the Grillhof Seminar Center, the beautiful landscape of the Tyrolean mountains and the thoughtful organizing committee members, the participants arrived in Innsbruck to a sunny week in August. Meeting and working with old and new friends was a very special aspect of the festival. It offered a space of exchange for scholars of Peace Studies and different generations of alumni from the MA Program, who are inspired by the philosophies of transrational peaces and elicitive conflict transformation. It was interesting to learn how each participant has been interpreting, applying and practicing these approaches to peace in many different and rich ways. We learned a lot from and gave feedback to our colleagues’ theses, dissertation proposals and academic articles, whose varied topics included: dealing with love, race, forced migration, individuation, dance, transnational movements, the electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, TaKeTiNa, unfolding human potential, consciousness of the self and the engagement of the peace worker. We delved into fieldwork experiences in Cambodia, reflected on the power of penetrating prejudice while volunteering in Morocco; we discussed action sports and aikido as elicitive conflict transformation methods and explored dialogues about transrational peaces in schools in Brazil. Sharing articles, experiences and methodologies developed by these inventive alumni working in a varied range of fields was a beautiful experience.
We also attended lectures by members of the University of Innsbruck Peace Studies’ core faculty team; the innovative and inspiring professors: Wolfgang Dietrich, Josefina Echavarría, Norbert Koppensteiner and Bernd Rott. Beyond reaffirming my previous admiration, they enchanted the participants by sharing the latest updates of the Innsbruck School of Peace Studies. It was encouraging to see how the approaches of the Innsbruck School have been deepening and expanding to different areas.
The festival was a nurturing environment to reconnect with old friends, make new ones and acknowledge theories on transrational peaces and elicitive conflict transformation.
Finally, participants also had the opportunity to facilitate methods, such as mandala painting, body work, Butoh Dance, Theatre for Living, and the dancing meditations of E-motions and Elicitive Motion. We were then brought to the end of this week of very intensive work. Participating in these workshops allowed us to reflect on the methods, give and receive feedback and suggestions. Furthermore, it was a deep journey into our selves led by our dauntless peers. The festival was a nurturing environment to reconnect with old friends, make new ones and acknowledge theories on transrational peaces and elicitive conflict transformation. It was an opportunity to share developments of our work, pollinate ideas and be inspired by the intensity and aliveness of the Innsbruck School and of the people who are part of it.
On a personal level, the Innsbruck Academic Festival of Many Peaces also renewed my commitment and inspiration to be a peace worker, to keep studying and developing my dissertation. It was also a motivation for living the presence and openness required to be an elicitive conflict worker. This kind of meeting is essential to keep this flame alive and to deeply connect with a global network of scholars of Peace Studies and peace workers. It is essential for strengthening and broadening the potential of transformation inherent in such encounters. It was certainly a tough festival and definitely an inspiring one. I am enthusiastically looking forward to the next developments of this network!