The study of societies that are already highly peaceful is a known source of information about solving social problems without using threats or violence. The Peaceful Societies website, committed for over 11 years to scholarship about groups that are, or were until recently, highly peaceful, moves today to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in order to further strengthen that commitment.
The new home for Peaceful Societies is the Department of Anthropology within the College of Arts and Sciences at UAB. “We are absolutely thrilled to be the new hosts of ‘Peaceful Societies,’ and we look forward to working closely with Bruce Bonta to keep this valuable online resource innovative and vital over the years to come,” says Douglas P. Fry, Chair and Professor of the Anthropology Department at UAB. The long-term prospects for the website are far stronger within the College of Arts and Sciences and Anthropology at UAB, which are developing research and educational foci on peace, justice, sustainability, and human rights, than were the website to continue to be hosted independently. At UAB, the purpose of the website remains the same: to promote peacefulness through the careful study of existing nonviolent societies.
The Hemingway theme of the new site, chosen from WordPress.org by the technical staff at UAB, reflects the normally quiet ways and natural environments of many of the world’s nonviolent peoples. But the dynamic WordPress content management system provides far better access to the contents of the website—over 1,200 news stories, reviews, and other pages published to date—than the old Dreamweaver-based site could possibly have done with its limited, static architecture.
The new site is user friendly and responsive, working equally well on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile devices. The social media buttons on the news and reviews posts invite people to share feedback about the information provided and, thanks to WordPress, people can now subscribe to the site in RSS readers.
Many of the peaceful societies, such as the Ladakhi or the Amish, struggle to retain their traditional, peaceful lives, some more successfully than others. Their peacefulness depends on a multitude of factors that are unique to each group, though a firm belief that nonviolence is central to their lives seems to be essential for many. Other ingredients that help them maintain their peacefulness include social and psychological structures that build commitments to nonviolence; educational approaches that inculcate peacefulness in their children; and techniques for avoiding conflicts and for resolving disputes quickly.
Support from within the Department of Anthropology at UAB, and from the technical staff within the college and the university, has been critical in making this move a success. We retain the hope that the examples of the peaceful societies—the beliefs that they hold to and the choices that they make—may shape the ways people in larger state societies view their issues. The approaches those societies have taken for solving their difficulties peacefully rather than violently is often inspiring, and they convince us that the goal of a more peaceful world is achievable. We therefore plan to continue weekly news stories and reviews, and hope that colleagues at UAB and others will help expand the offerings of the website.