A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Building Peace in America

By Colleen Kearney Rich on December 14, 2021

When George Mason University doctoral student Emily Sample and Douglas Irvin-Erickson, assistant professor and director of the Raphaël Lemkin Genocide Prevention Program at Mason’s Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, were editing the volume Building Peace in America (Rowman and Littlefield, 2020), the United States was a hotbed of unrest, and it was as if their predictions had come true.

girl with book

PhD candidate Emily Sample. Photo by: Shelby Burgess/Strategic Communications

What inspired you to put together this book?

ES: This book is the result of a conference we hosted at the Carter School called “Building an Architecture of Peacebuilding in the United States,” and it focused on bringing together different peacebuilding scholars and practitioners to discuss on how some of the peacebuilding methods we’ve all been using internationally can and should be used here in the United States as well. To that end, we gathered up a diverse group of authors who could speak to a variety of the “hot spot” issues facing the United States in 2018—when the conference was held—and look forward at what needed to be done to mitigate the risk of a mass-atrocity event in the United States in the coming years.

How did you decide who to include?

DI: The contributors to the book were some of the workshop participants, and I am proud that we were able to assemble a volume that includes so many diverse voices and takes seriously the real need in the United States for authentic conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts.

Was there anything that surprised you when working on the book?

ES: Over the 18 months that it took to write, edit, and publish the book, some of the warnings (and some of the recommendations) came to pass, most notably that issues of racial justice and police brutality in the United States were ready to come to a head—several chapters focused on exactly that. I was not surprised, per se, but rather frustrated that the warning signs had all been there and yet it still took the deaths of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor, among others, to get policymakers to finally take notice. I hope U.S. peacebuilders and policymakers will take the other warnings and recommendations in the book seriously.

What are you working on next?

ES: Right now, I am working on a few articles focused on environmental racism and am in the midst of editing a special issue for Genocide Studies and Prevention on the intersection of environmental destruction and mass atrocities. And, of course, I’m working on my dissertation. That research looks at structural mass atrocity prevention through the lens of climate change adaptation and gendered empowerment.

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