University of Massachusetts Amherst

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The Interdisciplinary Seminar on Conflict and Violence is designed to promote interdisciplinary exchanges among faculty and students interested in the topics of conflict, violence, and peace, from a wide range of departments across campus.

Dr. Ervin Staub
Dr. Ervin Staub

The origins of violence and principles and practices of prevention

November 3, 2016

Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall - 160 East
12:00-1:30 PM
Open to everyone    Refreshments served

Dr. Ervin Staub taught at Harvard, and is Professor Emeritus and Founding Director of the doctoral program in The Psychology of Peace and Violence at the University of Massachusetts,  Amherst. He is past President of the International Society for Political Psychology and of the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence. 
His last two books are the award winning Overcoming Evil: Genocide, Violent Conflict and Terrorism,  2011 and The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil: Inclusive caring, moral courage, altruism born of suffering, active bystandership and heroism,  2015. He worked with teachers and schools to promote altruism in children, and conducted projects in Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo to promote reconciliation. For awards and downloads of articles, see
Dr. Staub will discuss the  origins of violence, essential to understand for effective prevention, and both central principles and practices of prevention. Its starting point will be the origins and prevention of genocide, but he will also draw on his work on extreme violent conflict, and reconciliation in Rwanda and elsewhere. As part of prevention, ways will be discussed to promote active bystandership by individuals and groups, and develop caring and helping and moral courage in children and adults, even after victimization (“altruism born of suffering”). He will briefly refer to issues of origins and prevention in other realms, such as police violence, bullying and abuse in the family. If time allows, he will discuss creating caring societies.


Dr. Yasemin Gülsüm Acar

The role of empowerment and identity politicization on collective action participation

October 13, 2016
Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall - 160 West   
12:00 - 1:00 PM  
Open to everyone    Refreshments will be served

Yasemin Gülsüm Acar is a faculty member in the psychology department at Özyeğin University. Yasemin’s research interests include social activism and identity constructs in Turkey; political protest and its consequences; political solidarity; politicization and social identity; social (ethnic, religious, political) identity, and intergroup relations/conflict. She received her PhD from Claremont Graduate University, where she specialized in social identity and identity politicization through collective action. Yasemin recently published a book with her colleague Özden Melis Uluğ entitled Bir olmadan biz olmak: Farklı gruplardan aktivistlerin gözüyle Gezi Direnişi [Becoming us without being one:The Gezi Resistance from the perspective of different activists]. She has additionally published numerous book chapters and articles on consequences of collective action, as well as participated in research projects and produced publications on various perceptions of the Kurdish-Turkish Peace Process in Turkey. Her current research focuses on group-based perceptions of contemporary political dynamics in Turkey. 

Though studies of collective action date back to at least the 1890’s, in recent years there have been a number of developments in the social identity and collective action literatures clarifying how and why collective action emerges. Bandura’s concepts of self-efficacy and collective efficacy (1977, 1997) have been discussed as potential antecedents of both collective action and politicized identity. However, advances within the social identity approach indicate that efficacy does not encompass the emotional aspects of being successful, and that empowerment may be a more inclusive way to understand willingness to engage in future protest (Drury & Reicher, 2000, 2005). Empowerment has not yet clearly been shown as either an antecedent or consequence of collective action, and although the literature suggests feelings of empowerment endure long after the action is completed, questions of what role it plays in politicization and continuation of collective action have yet to be fully explored. 

The current works seek to better examine the link between empowerment and politicization of identity following the Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013. Twenty-five interviews were conducted with protest participants after the protests. Interviews indicated that the Gezi Park protests allowed for participants to be in close contact with a variety of different organizations. As well, participants cited empowerment experiences through conflict with police but also through the park occupation. Participants cited a desire to continue empowerment experiences through their new groups. 

Dr. Winnifred Louis
Dr. Winnifred Louis

Evidence-based Social Cohesion: The Intersection between Individual Pathology or Hatred and Collective Conflict

June 23, 2016

521B Tobin Hall   12-1:30 PM
Refreshments will be served

What is the contribution of psychology to understanding collective harmdoing and social cohesion?  How can we understand the intersection between individual pathology or hatred and collective conflicts, as in the case of hate crimes or “lone wolf” attacks?  The present talk presents a program of research on identity and norms which addresses these difficult questions, and attempts to distill a set of recommendations for policy-makers and researchers’ future directions.

Dr. Winnifred Louis, Associate Professor, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Australia. Dr. Louis joined the School in 2001 as a postdoctoral research fellow from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and obtained a continuing position in 2005. In 2011 she was the recipient of a UQ Award for Teaching Excellence. Her research focuses on identity and decision-making; intergroup relations and conflict; collective action; and norms, attitudes and behaviour.

Alexandra Pittman
Alexandra Pittman

Contributing to Social Change: Tips for Negotiating the Academic-Practice Divide

April 9, 2015
Thursday April 9, 2015  1:00 - 2:00 P.M.
Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall - 160 East
Open to everyone    Refreshments served

Drawing on diverse experiences in monitoring and evaluation in the field, Pittman shares tips for students wishing to make a difference by applying their theoretical and academic skills to the international development and human rights sector. Case examples are presented from her work with peacebuilding and women’s rights work in Armenia and Azerbaijan, design and implementation of a participatory evaluation process with Moroccan activists, and development of a software product to track and visualize trends in social change data, Impact Mapper. 

Alexandra Pittman is the founder of Impact Mapper and AVP Global Consulting, LLC. Alexandra specializes in research and evaluation for human rights, women's rights, and social justice organizations, networks, and movements. Alexandra has worked with a diverse set of donors and international nonprofits since 2005, including Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), Foundation Center, FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, Kvinna til Kvinna, Open Society Foundations (NYC and Armenia), Oxfam America, Oxfam International, Oxfam Great Britain, Mama Cash, Spring Strategies, UNDP, UN Women Trust Fund for VAW, and Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP).  

Publications span both professional and academic spheres, including a chapter in the 2011 Reality of Aid report (with Anne Schoenstein and Lydia Alpizar), a chapter on the family law reform in Morocco (with Rabéa Naciri) in Citizen Action and National Policy Reform: Making Change Happen (eds. John Gaventa and Rosemary McGee), a paper for UNDP on measuring gender equality and women's empowerment, a co-authored paper on M&E in women’s rights organizations, "Capturing Changes in Women’s Realities" (with Srilatha Batliwala), and was the creator and moderator of AWID's M&E wiki

Alexandra received her Masters degree in International Education Policy from Harvard University and PhD in Sociology and Cultural Psychology from Boston College. She also held a Senior Research Fellowship position at the Hauser Center for Nonprofits at Harvard University from 2010-2011, working on the role of brand in international nonprofits and philanthropies.


Andrew G. Reiter
Andrew G. Reiter

Fighting Over Peace: Spoilers, Peace Agreements, and the Strategic Use of Violence

March 5, 2015
Commonwealth Honors College Event Hall - 160 East    1:00 - 2:00 P.M.
Refreshments will be served

Who attempts to “spoil” civil war peace agreements, when and why do they do so, and how threatening are their violent actions? Andrew Reiter will address this important international security concern: explaining the emergence of spoilers; discussing their impact; and outlining effective strategies to manage them and, in turn, safeguard peace processes.

Andrew G. Reiter is an emerging scholar in the fields of conflict resolution and post-authoritarian and post-conflict reconstruction, particular issues concerning transitional justice. He is the co-author of Transitional Justice in Balance: Comparing Processes, Weighing Efficacy (USIP Press, 2010), and has published widely in academic journals, such as Human Rights Quarterly, Journal of Peace Research, International Studies Review, International Journal of Transitional Justice, Law & Society Review, and Armed Forces & Society.

Reiter has also consulted for several governments, international organizations, and NGOs on peace processes and post-conflict transitional justice decisions. In particular, he has been drawn on for questions concerning the use of amnesties as a peacemaking tool and the pursuit of justice and truth for former combatants and members of the armed forces.


Dennis J. Barr
Dennis J. Barr

Educating for Democracy Through Facing History and Ourselves

December 4, 2014
Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall - 160 East
Refreshments will be served

What kind of preparation do teachers need to be able to foster student's reflective engagement in the complex and controversial social and civic issues of our times, and how would we know if such preparation were successful?  In this seminar we will examine the role of education in promoting a civil society, focusing on the approach of Facing History and Ourselves, an international educational organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.  Facing History integrates the study of history and ethics in ways that help teachers to promote young people’s informed and responsible civic engagement. We will discuss the evidence base for the program and the need for more research that documents the complex links between teacher development and student learning. There will be time for discussion regarding the program, relevant research, and implications for policy.

Dennis J. Barr, Ed.D., is a developmental psychologist interested in theory, research and practices related to fostering the social, moral, and civic development and engagement of youth.  He is the Director of Evaluation at Facing History and Ourselves, an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. Dr. Barr is also an Adjunct Lecturer on Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where he teaches a course on civic education using Facing History as a case study.  Dr. Barr has conducted numerous studies, and was most recently the principal investigator of a nationwide randomized controlled trial evaluating Facing History. The research team also developed several innovative measures of teacher and student growth for the study, which was published in Teachers College Record in March 2014.