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Why I teach Peace Studies? Elton skendaj

I grew up in communist Albania. Marx and Engels adorned all my school classrooms in elementary schools.

Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin

Then, when I was 14, communism fell. I found out that communist leaders had lied to us. I distrusted political dogmas, and I became fascinated with what freedom meant. For some of my friends, freedom meant traveling illegally to Italy to become migrants and refugees.

Many people fled Albania in 1991, and they called themselves refugees.

For me, freedom meant reading books and watching movies that were not banned anymore. I could travel abroad now, and discuss my ideas freely. I met wonderful friends around the world.

During my first year in college abroad, the state collapsed in Albania. Riots tore my home town apart. A gangster almost shot me when I went to visit my family during the summer.

A gang in my hometown, Vlora.

I was studying economics and computer science at the time. Since I wanted to know why people rebel and how can we promote peace, I started to take more political science classes. A year later, the war in Kosovo was too close to home, and I accompanied Kosovo refugees when they returned home. Almost 1 million Kosovo refugees fled in that major refugee crisis.

Kosovo Albanian Refugees flee their homes.

I switched my major to political science and was involved in several peace organizations in the Balkans. Focusing on questions of peace and democracy, I ended up getting a Master degree in Peace Studies from Notre Dame, where I studied conflict resolution international organizations. I went back to Kosovo to do some research on how local and international actors build peace and democracy after war. That research became my dissertation for my PhD in Government from Cornell University and the topic of my first academic book.

Ph.D. Graduation
My first book published by Cornell University Press and the Wilson Center Press.

I teach peace studies, because it matters. Resolving conflict, building democracy, and striving for freedom, are not just empty words, but living ideas that all citizens should explore.

With students at the University of Miami 2016,

Through discussions, role-plays, applications, we explore politics from different angles. While learning can be challenging, we also have fun during this journey.

Manchester students present their conflict maps at the undergraduate peace conference at Notre Dame.

Credits:

Created with images by Julian Stallabrass - "806-21c"

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