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Wicked Problems

Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, Douglas Irvin-Erickson & Ernesto Verdeja

Warwick’s presents
Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, Douglas Irvin-Erickson & Ernesto Verdeja

Wicked Problems

Tuesday, May 24, 2022 - 4:00pm PDT

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On Tuesday, May 24th at 4:00pm PDT Warwick's will host Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, Douglas Irvin-Erickson and Ernesto Verdeja as they discuss their new book, Wicked Problems: The Ethics of Action for Peace, Rights, and Justice.

Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick is University Professor at the University of San Diego’s Kroc School of Peace Studies. He currently holds fellowships at Harvard and Yale, and his two most recent books, What Slaveholders Think and The Good Drone, explore pressing social change issues. Austin lives in California, but secretly loves the East Coast.

Douglas Irvin-Erickson is assistant professor at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, where he directs the Lemkin Genocide Prevention Program. He is the author of Raphaël Lemkin and the Concept of Genocide and is writing two book due out next year: An Intellectual Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dying in the Age of Thoughtlessness, a critical examination of global peacebuilding, genocide prevention, and human rights regimes.

Ernesto Verdeja is Associate Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, and Executive Director of the non-profit organization Institute for the Study of Genocide. He has published widely on the causes of mass atrocities and genocide, mass atrocity early warning and prevention, and political reconciliation and justice after violence. He regularly consults with governments and human rights organizations on these topics.

The ethics of changemaking and peacebuilding may appear straightforward: advance dignity, promote well-being, minimize suffering. Sounds simple, right? Actually acting ethically when it really matters is rarely straightforward. If someone engaged in change-oriented work sets out to do good, how should we prioritize and evaluate whose good counts? And, how ought we act once we have decided whose good counts? Practitioners frequently confront dilemmas where dire situations may demand some form of response, but each of the options may have undesirable consequences of one form or another.

Dilemmas are not merely ordinary problems, they are wicked problems: that is to say, they are defined by circumstances that only allow for suboptimal outcomes and are based on profound and sometimes troubling trade-offs.

Wicked Problems argues that the field of peacebuilding and conflict transformation needs a stronger and more practical sense of its ethical obligations. For example, it argues against posing false binaries between domestic and international issues and against viewing violence and conflict as equivalents. It holds strategic nonviolence up to critical scrutiny and shows that do no harm approaches may in fact do harm.

The contributors include scholars, scholar practitioners in the field, and activists on the streets, and the chapters cover the role of violence in conflict; conflict and violence prevention and resolution; humanitarianism; community organizing and racial justice; social movements; human rights advocacy; transitional justice; political reconciliation; and peace education and pedagogy, among other topics. Drawing on the lived experiences and expertise of activists, educators, and researchers, Wicked Problems equips readers to ask - and answer - difficult questions about social change work.