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Notre Dame professor speaks about career in conflict transformation and peacebuilding

On Friday, November 1st at 12:30 pm Dr. David Anderson Hooker gave a talk entitled “Building a Narrative of Our Shared Future: Doing Community Amidst Global Division and Local Controversy.” This talk was a part of an ongoing lecture series by the Mellon Community Transformation Workshop. Dr. Hooker is an associate professor of the Practice of Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He has authored one book entitled The Little Book of Transformative Community Conferencing: A Hopeful, Practical Approach to Dialogue. Dr. Hooker’s research primarily focuses on multigenerational trauma and societal reconciliation. The talk was well attended by faculty and staff but had low student attendance.

Hooker gave a talk about the challenges our institution, and the world, are facing. He led his key points with the notion that how we frame the challenge will inform how we respond to it. This played into a larger, more overarching point that Hooker was making about the pre-established narratives that we created for ourselves long before college. He went on further to talk about the nature of college campuses and that they are designed for ripe conflict, in tying this back to Beloit he simply stated: “there is complexity in creating a narrative for this community.” 

One of the most interesting claims Hooker made was the ways communities operate. He argued that communities operate for two primary purposes exclusion and inclusion, and maintaining the acceptable behaviors. He talked about how these fester in college campuses because your membership in the community determines the burdens and values assigned to you. According to Hooker, people establish themselves by figuring out who isn’t them, further pushing a culture of othering because what we know about ourselves is wrapped up in a narrative that is embedded in the role we have assumed. 

Hooker reminded us that nothing is inherently true, and often communities and roles are assigned to us with no agency, forming a narrative for people that pre-exists them. He talked about how it is assumed that in college you get to choose your identity and community – “when a community is done well it can be life-changing when done poorly it can be life-ruining.” This concept of a shared future was rooted in Hooker’s belief that narrative doesn’t need to be shared, if people make space, and you don’t need to agree but you must come together. He believed that are three key ideas that can create a flourishing community paradoxical curiosity, stretching into the game, and hope. He believed that stretching into the game is when you recognize the whole community can’t change if you stay the same – “Step in by being different. You want a new economy? Spend differently.” 

He provided a brilliant definition for hope, detailing how hope is different from optimism,  that it is a lens for what you are, and a belief in the possibilities that you can’t see. In one of his final points, he told us that surprise and disappointment are the emotional gaps between narrative and observation. 

The talk was introduced by Joshua Moore, Director of the Center for Immersive and Experiential Learning Opportunities (CIELO).

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