- Offers a Bachelor’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) to students at Juniata College
- Courses use books by such authors as socialist radical Barbara Ehrenreich
Based at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies administers a bachelor’s degree program which it describes as “an interdisciplinary inquiry into the human problems of war and deeply rooted conflict, and peace as a human potential.” The program’s courses explore issues like “how and why humans resort to violence to resolve conflicts,” and “how peace and cooperation might be institutionalized through peacebuilding, conflict transformation, and the study of human behavior and social institutions.” Because the discipline of Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) emphasizes “the value of nonviolent social change and the role of reconciliation and forgiveness in moving people beyond violence,” says the Institute, it can be particularly beneficial “in a culture [like America’s] where war is the central metaphor for life.” For brief descriptions of each of the 30+ courses that comprise the Baker Institute’s PACS program, click here.
The Baker Institute’s earliest roots can be traced back to 1968, when the peace activist Elizabeth Evans Baker (1902-1990) gave Juniata College a financial gift earmarked specifically for the creation of a PACS program, which was put in place three years later. The Institute itself—named in Ms. Baker’s honor—was formally established in 1986 by Andrew Murray, a leader in the development of PACS as a field of scholarly inquiry. In 2002, Murray was one of fifty Juniata College faculty members to sign a resolution opposing a U.S. invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Today he is a senior fellow with the Institute.
In addition to its PACS degree program, the Baker Institute also sponsors conferences, workshops, and public forums on issues of war and peace—all in an effort to “educate the public, as well as the Juniata College community, about creating a future where war no longer exists.”
In 2012, Baker Institute director James Skelly—who previously had led seminars at the Institute on Social and European Studies (located in Hungary)—founded, as a Baker Institute project, an online Centre on Critical Thinking that aims to “draw students out of the frenzy of the modern digital world full of meaningless information, and into dialogic explorations that challenge them [to] make sense of their experiences of the world, and empower them to have a voice in it.” In the 1960s, Skelly was a U.S. Navy officer who refused to serve in the Vietnam War. In 1971 he worked with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland as the “political coordinator” of the so-called “Free The Army” Show in San Diego, an event whose goal was to incite mass insubordination among American troops.
In an effort to stimulate an exchange of knowledge and ideas among faculty at Juniata, each semester the Baker Institute hosts a series of Integrative Faculty Seminars where professors are invited to present, to their colleagues, information about their recent research products and intellectual odyssies.
Among the more noteworthy and influential courses ever offered by the Baker Institute was “Globalization and the New Wars,” which was taught by the aforementioned James Skelly in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. According to the course syllabus, Skelly’s class focused on “the nature of capitalist economies and the transformations that they have wrought since the beginnings of the industrial revolution in the mid-18th century”; was “especially concerned with the more recent development of consumerism and the cultural attitudes that it engenders”; and sought to “explore how the ‘new wars’ that have developed in the post-Cold War world are evolving, including what many call ‘terrorism,’ the United States’ response including the war in Iraq, and what the consequences may be for globalization in political, economic, and cultural terms.” A required text for the class was Barbara Ehrenreich‘s Nickeled and Dimed, which advocated the abolition of capitalism. And a “recommended reading” for the course was Benjamin Barber’s Jihad vs. McWorld, which not only argued against the spread of capitalism and Western ideologies, but also attributed the Arab world’s rising anti-Americanism to resentments spawned by the great success of U.S. businesses such as McDonald’s.
For additional information on the Baker Institute, click here.