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 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
A $2.8 million endowment from a family committed to the cause of social justice will fund Vinthagen’s position and related activities and support scientific research that can provide guidance to people across the globe who seek to improve their societies through nonviolence. The family wishes to remain anonymous. As part of his outreach, Vinthagen aspires for UMass Amherst to 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 said, “The appointment of Dr. Vinthagen, a world renowned authority in peaceful conflict resolution, 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 while elevating the profile of UMass Amherst on the world stage.”
In his new role, Vinthagen will teach, meet with activists from around the globe and convene gatherings in Amherst where leaders can collaborate with resistance researchers and share knowledge with each other and students.
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. I am excited to take on this great work at UMass Amherst.”
In this new position, Vinthagen will also become an integral member of the university’s Psychology of Peace and Violence Program, and he will lead the program’s expansion to address issues of nonviolent action and civil resistance. The program trains scientific researchers who are committed to preventing and reducing violence and conflict, and who seek to bridge the gap between academic research and its application. Program students and faculty partner with non-governmental organizations locally and internationally, and translate their work for policymakers and practitioners to facilitate conflict resolution, reconciliation and peace building.
Vinthagen brings 30 years of experience in nonviolent action and strategy planning in peace, justice and environmental movements to this position. A scholar, activist, author, lecturer and world traveler, he currently holds academic positions at two universities in Sweden. He is associate professor in sociology at University West, Trollhattan, and senior lecturer in peace and development studies and co-leader of the Resistance Studies Group at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg. He is also academic advisor for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in Washington, D.C. At UMass Amherst, he will be a professor of sociology.
Vinthagen has a Ph.D. in peace and development research and a bachelor’s degree in sociology and international relations, both from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Vinthagen has conducted three years of field work research in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia. He served a total of a year in prison for various peace protests involving civil disobedience.
He is the author or co-author of seven books and editor of two others and has written 17 peer-reviewed articles, 15 book chapters and numerous other texts.
He is a member of the Peace and Development Scholar Network, the Nonviolence Commission of the International Peace Research Association and a council member of War Resisters International. He is co-founder of the Resistance Studies Network and an associate of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research.