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Reba Parker Defines Peace (V.)

Posted by: Melissa Page | December 18, 2014 | No Comment |


Around the holidays, the idea of peace on Earth repeated throughout Christmas carols, holiday cards and season’s greetings is just that – an idea. To many, it’s abstract feeling that’s nice to wish for and easy to write off among more pressing priorities.

peace on Earth

But College of Charleston Professor of Sociology Reba Parker argues that peace is something else entirely. “The first question I ask students in my Sociology of Peace class is, ‘Is peace possible?’ Most of them see peace as a noun, they think about world peace as this lofty, impossible goal. So they say no.

EXPLORE: Learn more about the College’s sociology and anthropology department

“Over the course of the class, though,” Parker continued, “They begin to see peace as a verb, a process that begins in a single relationship and ripples outward.”

Parker, who received her master’s in theology before becoming interested in peace studies and social justice, is an applied sociologist. This means, “I’m trying to find solutions for questions and social problems,” she explained. “When it comes to peace studies, I’m looking at strategic ways a culture can begin the process of peace. At the micro level, this happens with individuals and families. It transcends to the local level and then ultimately to a global level.”

Her Sociology of Peace classes touch on all three levels, beginning with interpersonal communication tactics that can reduce violence in one-on-one or family relationships at the micro level. Her students snowball into the global level by looking at public policies, environmental concerns and organizations, violent crime rates and other factors measured on the Global Peace Index – a scale that quantifies peace in 162 countries by analyzing 22 components.

But it’s at the local level that Parker’s students can shine. In the time she’s taught 35-or-so courses at the College, Parker and her students have engaged with local schools to teach and celebrate peace, and they have planted more than 20 peace poles in Charleston’s public spaces.

Peace on Earth

“A peace pole is an eight-foot-tall, four-sided pole that’s planted three feet in the ground. It says, “May peace prevail on earth” in four languages (one on each side),” Parker said. “We planted the first peace pole, with permission from Mayor Joe Riley, at Brittlebank Park, and we’ve planted them at Sanders Clyde and James Simons elementary schools.”

The poles are more than a small-scale art installation. Parker contends they serve two purposes – to remind passersby that peace is possible, and to incorporate a global awareness into their lives.

“For example, at James Simons Elementary we put the pole in a parking circle that parents drive

around as the pick up and drop off their kids for school,” Parker said. “So, parents might be arguing in the car or something, and when they see the peace pole they’re reminded to think about how they communicate, to be more peaceful. For the children, it’s a sign that they’re entering a peaceful place.”

In Sociology of Peace, Parker’s students are reminded that many primary students across the U.S. and the world don’t have the luxury of feeling safe in their schools. In the face of the many violent attacks, conflicts and atrocities 2014 witnessed, Parker notes that many people feel skeptical about peace.

Peace on Earth

“It’s hard to look at the world and think an end to the violence is possible,” Parker said. “But you see change, and the demand for change, at a grassroots level in the form of protests and movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. That’s a good sign. Change is a catalyst for peace.”

Parker believes that the fact that peace itself is changeable and moveable helps people to better grasp that it can be realized. She references the Global Peace Index, saying, “You can actually see if a country is moving up or down the scale. For instance, if you look at Germany, which was once one of the most war-prone countries in the world, it’s now ranked the 17th-most peaceful country. Watching these rankings change and understanding how peace is measured makes it a more accessible process”

Parker credits strategic planning for the positive movements among once-violent countries like Germany and Japan. “There are strategies for peace just like there are strategies for war,” she said.

Those strategies, many of which are implemented by Canada (ranked 10th on the Index to the U.S.’ 101), include minimizing the gap between the wealthy and the poor, working toward environmental protection and sustainable energy, providing benefits like healthcare and paid maternity leave across the board, and healthy relationships with neighboring countries.

As Sociology of Peace oscillates between macro ideals and micro tactics for peace, Parker observes her students’ perspectives warming to new possibilities.

“At the end of the year I ask my students that same question – ‘Is peace possible?’ – and they all say, ‘Yes. Absolutely.’”

under: Faculty Spotlight

Professor Reba Parker recently organized a Skype lecture from London with Jeremy Gilley, the Founder of Peace One Day.  The event was sponsored by the First Year Experience program and attended by students from the College of Charleston and The Citadel.  A brief bio on Jeremy Gilley is below.
Skype2  IMG_3533

In 1998, Gilley began to make the Peace One Day documentary, eventually deciding to aim for a UN resolution formalising the idea. This goal was reached in 2001 when UN GA resolution (A/Res/55/282), put forward by the UK and Costa Rican Governments, was unanimously adopted to establish the first ever day of global ceasefire and non-violence fixed in the calendar as 21 September annually. This resolution drew on a 1981 UN resolution that had declared the third Tuesday of September the international day of peace.[3]

Gilley organised two concerts at Brixton Academy, London, on 21 September 2002 and 2003. In 2004, the Peace One Day documentary premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival, then the BBC aired the documentary in September of the same year. On the other side of the Atlantic in 2005, Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller hosted the North American Film Premiere to highlight Peace Day.

In May 2006, the Peace One Day Citizenship Resource Pack was launched after conversations with over 30,000 young people and teachers. In 2007, a second edition of the Citizenship Resource Pack was made available to every secondary school in the UK.

Gilley produced and filmed The Day After Peace, in association with the BBC. The film documents the first ever life-saving activity on the day – polio vaccinations on 21 September 2007 in insecure regions of south and east Afghanistan. In May 2008 Jeremy Gilley received the award Campaigner of the Year.[4][5]

In early September 2008 Gilley and Jude Law travelled to Afghanistan to screen The Day After Peace there, Hamid Karzai, and document preparations for the polio vaccination on 21 September 2008 of 1.85 million children under 5 years old, in seven Afghan provinces where conflict has previously prevented access.[6]

On 21 September 2010, the Board of the Carnegie Foundation announced that Peace One Day and Jeremy Gilley would be the recipient of the Wateler Peace Prize.[7]

On 6 December 2011, Gilley was a founding signatory of the Pledge to Peace at the Peace and Well Being Conference at the European Parliament in Brussels.[8]


under: CofC Events, Department Events, Faculty Spotlight


Grad School Fair

under: CofC Events

Update from Dr. Finnan in India

Posted by: Melissa Page | November 3, 2014 | No Comment |

Dr. Finnan shares some of her experiences in India so far:





under: Faculty Spotlight

SOCY Professors Highlighted in the Post & Courier

Posted by: Melissa Page | October 14, 2014 | No Comment |

Dr. Von Bakanic weighs in on women in the workforce:


Adjunct Professor Reba Parker’s peace work continues:



under: Faculty Spotlight


under: Alumni Spotlight

Dr. Heath Hoffmann, Associate Professor of Sociology, will be moderating a community forum and discussion ‘School Discipline:  Classroom to Prison?’ on Wednesday, September 17 at 6pm on the College of Charleston campus.  The event is free and open to the public.  For additional information, see the League of Women Voters website at http://lwvcharleston.org/SchooltoPrisonPipeline.html.

Save the Date Flyer


under: Charleston Events, CofC Events, Faculty Spotlight

Paid Political Internship Opportunity in Washington, DC

Posted by: Melissa Page | July 14, 2014 | No Comment |

Markham Group Internship Opportunity

under: Miscellaneous


under: Faculty Spotlight

Faculty Kudos

Posted by: Melissa Page | April 28, 2014 | No Comment |

Two of our Department faculty were recognized last week at the annual “Celebration of Faculty”. Congratulations to Reba Parker for receiving the College’s inaugural Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award, and to Dee Dee Joyce for receiving the Distinguished Faculty Advising Award. These awards are very well-deserved and they make the Department very proud! Reba Parker was also recognized by the Office for the Academic Experience and the First-Year Experience Program for Outstanding Service to First Year Students.

Reba Parker (R) and Dee Dee Joyce (L).

Reba Parker (R) and Dee Dee Joyce (L).

under: Department Events, Faculty Spotlight

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