Should We Major in Peace Studies?

▲Professor Wilhelm Vosse who teaches the foundation course “Peace Studies I” at ICU

Among the various subjects, “peace studies” is one of the learning options given to ICU students. As “peace” has a strong connection with other fields of study such as international relations (IR) and development studies, many of you are perhaps considering peace studies as your future major or minor. However, some may be wondering what learning is exactly provided in this subject, and what options of study abroad there are for students taking the courses. To give some clues to those of you who have interests in peace studies or peace-related subjects, I interviewed Professor Wilhelm Vosse who teaches the foundation course “Peace Studies I” at ICU.


――What is your study?

My field is not actually peace studies, but international relations and political science. My primary focus is security studies.


――What brought you to teach at ICU?

My master thesis was about “the environmental movements and peace movements in Japan.” The contested concepts and the matter of how to achieve peace were what I studied before coming to ICU. So this was the link I had with peace studies.


――What are the appealing points of the field of peace studies?

Especially at a liberal arts college like ICU, peace studies is really cross-disciplinary, and it needs inputs from a broad range of other subjects not just my disciplines which are political science and IR, but also other fields such as laws, biology, psychology… and even MCC. Almost all majors taught at ICU contribute to a better understanding of peace studies, which is what I am trying to teach in this foundation course (“Peace Studies I”). And I think this combination of different angles is the fascinating aspect of peace studies.


――How is peace studies different from other fields of study?

Most of the time, you conduct research from one disciplinary perspective, but in the case of peace studies, you need to include many other disciplines. For instance, if you studied IR, you would mainly look at treaties, but if you looked at this from the peace perspective, you would have to focus on “how and when there has been peace” and “how can peace be achieved” from a variety of perspectives. So you have to be open-minded and try to understand the contributions from many disciplines; otherwise, the study of peace remains pretty shallow.

In my peace studies course, although students usually come from a specific discipline or major, they have the opportunity to study together with students from various different disciplines. If you major in peace studies, you would not be an expert in one specific field, but you would get to understand problems from a wider range of disciplines which you might not have otherwise studied in your own research.


Exchange programs and peace studies

Professor Vosse also studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), which is one of ICU’s partner colleges, as a study abroad student. Wondering if LSE provides any peace-related courses and which countries and colleges specialize in peace studies, I asked Professor Vosse some questions regarding study abroad.

▲The London School of Economics and Political Science

Image Credits: Medium


――What was intriguing about LSE?

LSE is a world-class university and has excellent professors, but the most appealing point I found was the other excellent students. It is easy to learn something from your books, but the experience of studying with other LSE students from all around the world is not something you can have in your home country with a book. This was the motivating factor for me. Also, LSE is far more international than ICU as 2/3 of the students are coming from outside of Britain, which makes discussions really interesting. LSE is a place where it is not uncommon that a student sitting next to you in the same classroom might be the future president of his or her country.

Regarding peace studies, LSE does not provide any peace studies programs per se, but basically all social sciences. However, King’s College London (KCL), which is very near to LSE, offers war studies program, and a few of my former peace studies students went on to study war studies at King’s College London.


――Do you have any recommendations for countries or universities for better learning of peace studies?

In Britain, the most famous one for peace studies is the University of Bradford. Otherwise, the Nordic countries, Sweden and Norway in particular, are good options. For instance, the University of Oslo in Norway provides good education of peace, and Sweden has Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Although there are a few famous universities in peace studies in the United States, peace studies seem to be more a European concept.


――Could you give some comments or advice to those who want to study or are interested in peace studies?

There is a graduate school program at ICU called “the Rotary Peace Studies Program” with roughly 20 so-called Rotary World Peace Fellows. The classes are usually student-centered with presentations and discussions. It is advisable for those in the third and fourth year, in particular, to look at the graduate school course offerings and try to study with those graduate students to deepen your understanding. Don’t worry that these are graduate school courses, I guarantee, that you will have a very interesting experience. As long as you are confident in talking in English, you can get a lot out of these GS courses. What is important is to be open to new opportunities.


――Thank you for your time.