May 29, 2014

Inaugural Professor for Peace

Stellan Vinthagen named to endowed chair

Stellan Vinthagen, an internationally known Swedish peace activist and educator in conflict transformation and civil disobedience, has been named the inaugural holder of an endowed chair in the study of nonviolent direct action and civil resistance. The impact of this appointment will reach well beyond campus. Vinthagen will aim to create new science-based interdisciplinary knowledge on how and when nonviolent approaches can resolve conflicts and promote harmony.

A $2.8 million endowment from a family, who are committed to the cause of social justice and wish to remain anonymous, will fund Vinthagen’s position and related activities.  Endowed chairs provide salaries, graduate assistantships and discretionary funding for research initiatives.

As part of his work, Vinthagen proposes that UMass Amherst publish a comprehensive annual report on direct, nonviolent actions similar to reports describing trends of violent conflicts and wars. “The key is to develop practical and critical knowledge and guidelines that will facilitate more effective struggles against injustices and domination, in the U.S. and around in the world,” Vinthagen said.

UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy noted, “The appointment of Dr. Vinthagen is perfectly aligned with the flagship campus’s long history as a force for social justice. Dr. Vinthagen’s work is at the forefront of an emerging field of study and his appointment will enrich our campus immeasurably.”

In his new role, Vinthagen will teach, meet with activists from around the globe and convene gatherings in Amherst. Vinthagen said, “People around the world aspire to secure human rights and democratization, but in mass actions, outcomes are mixed. There must be systematic study so people can learn from mistakes. Now, with this effort, we can have tighter collaborations among activists and scholars and those who have decades of experience in places like South Africa and Egypt. And we can provide a safe place where people can step back and reflect.”

Vinthagen, who will be a professor of sociology, will also become an integral member of the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program, and he will lead the program’s expansion to address issues of nonviolent action and civil resistance.