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Critical Ambivalence in Peace Education Teacher Workshops: An Ethnographic Study

This paper draws on ethnographic data from a project on peace education and reconciliation pedagogies in the conflict-affected context of Cyprus. Following a primary school teacher over the period of eight months in peace education workshops and in her classroom before and after the workshops, we trace critical moments that seem to have an impact on teacher’s thoughts and emotions in relation to conflict and reconciliation. Analysing extracts of interaction both from the workshops as well as from her classroom, we show her struggle to cope with reconciliatory ideas and the dominant conflict ethos, pointing to possibilities for change but also resistances and limitations. Despite the detailed focus on one individual, we use data from the whole project to contextualize her practices and we use her case to highlight important elements to consider when designing reconciliation activities. Using the concept of critical ambivalence, we highlight teachers’ ambivalent emotions during the process (namely, both positive and negative ones) as a first step in deconstructing hegemonic nationalist discourses, and we argue for the value of creating spaces for these ambivalent emotions to be acknowledged and discussed through a critical lens. In particular, we show how teacher education interventions may constitute examples of reconciliation activities that create spaces for these ambivalent emotions to be acknowledged and discussed through a critical lens. We argue that these kinds of activities allow for a type of political socialization that is not part of the dominant conflict ethos in formal education and have the potential to influence change in everyday classroom practices, which is critical in making the reconciliation process successful.