Professor Linda Hogan: Taking Peace and Nonviolence Seriously

Prof. Linda Hogan

Professor of Ecumenics and Fellow of the College

Professor Linda Hogan is Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer and Professor of Ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin.  She was appointed to the role of Vice-Provost/CAO in September 2011 and as such has overall responsibility for education and research at the university and deputizes for the Provost as required. She is an ex officio member of the Executive Officers Group, the university’s Senior Management Team, along with the Provost, Chief Operating Officer and the Faculty Deans. She coordinates strategic planning, research, undergraduate and postgraduate education, quality and the student experience.

Professor Hogan has degrees from the Pontifical University Maynooth and of Trinity College, Dublin, where she gained her Ph.D.  In 2007 she became a Fellow of TCD.  Her primary research interests lie in the fields of theological ethics, human rights and gender.  Amongst her recent publications are Religious Voices in Public Places, Oxford University Press, 2009 (edited with Nigel Biggar); Religions and the Politics of Peace and Conflict, Princeton Theological Monographs, 2009 (edited with Dylan Lee Lehrke); and Applied Ethics in a World Church, Orbis, 2008 (ed.) which received the 2009 Catholic Book Award from the Catholic Press Association of the USA and Canada.  She is also the author of Confronting the Truth: Conscience in the Catholic Tradition, Paulist Press, 2000 and From Women’s Experience to Feminist Theology, Sheffield, Sheffield Academic Press, 1995, 1998 as well as essays and journal articles in the fields of social and political ethics, feminist theological ethics and intercultural ethics.  She has been the co-editor of two special issues of Feminist Theory, i.e. Gendering Ethics/The Ethics of Gender 2001 and Ethical Relations, 2003.

Professor Hogan teaches on a range of modules including Ethics in International Affairs; Human Rights in Theory and Practice; Gender, War and Peace and Ecumenical Social Ethics.  Previously she held the post of Lecturer in Gender, Ethics and Religion in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Leeds.  In January 2005 she was a visiting professor at the Colleges of Divinity in both Sydney and Melbourne.  She also delivered the Helder Camara Lectures in Sydney and Melbourne in July 2004.  Her current Ph.D students are working on a range of topics including: the utility of moral restrictions in warfare; a feminist analysis of just war; an ecumenical ethic of human rights; the role of Catholic NGOs in the construction of a social ethic; and feminist epistemologies.

Here is an interview I conducted with her about peace in Melbourne in 2005.  The issues are still relevant today.


Dr Linda Hogan

University of Dublin

Lecture at the Ecumenical Summer School, Melbourne


LH:  I was invited back to the Ecumenical Summer School and I taught for a week in Sydney at their summer school and came to Melbourne to do the same thing again.

Q.     Can you tell us about the subject you teach and what issues come up?

LH:  What we are interested in in the school I belong to is creating context in which peace issues are taken seriously and peace is taken as a viable alternative to violence in this world.  We recognise that peace very often involves the defence of the innocent and it involves a fight for justice.  What we are interested in pursuing in our school is exploring nonviolent options for pursuing justice in this world.

Q.     What do you say to people who think nonviolence is ineffective and that the only way to protect yourself is to take the line of building a bigger military in order to create a sense of fear in the other so they won’t attack you and that creates a stable world what do you think of that?

LH:  Our history has shown us this is actually wrong.  What our history has shown us force and violence leads to more violence, that we are now in a cycle where violence is presented to us as the only alternative.    And yet all we can see is when revolutions, revolutionary activity through violence there is a cycle of violence that follows it.  I would say at the historical level this argument is incorrect, we are in the situation now where we are highly militarised purely because of the failures of those many centuries where military options were only chosen.  So I very strongly believe that there are many examples in our histories in our different nations of nonviolent action that has been successful.  Very often it is at a local level, very often it has been hidden, very often it has been preventative. In fact the success of preventative action and preventative diplomacy we are not in a situation where we need to evoke military power.   So, I really think we have been fed a lie about the way in which we need a military, I’ve been talking about an extraordinary book, the book is called The Unconquerable World:  Power of Nonviolence and the Will of the People, that is the title, it is by an American writer called Jonathon Shell.  What he does in this book is make a very strong argument about the power of nonviolence in history he says very clearly that force now will only lead to more force that is what history has told us.  He also says that if we look carefully we find another tradition in our histories as well, that is the history of empires overcome by people power of people choosing the path of nonviolence of people resolving conflict non-violently and peacefully.  And really what we need to do at this juncture in history is reclaim that history to recognise its significance and draw hope from it.  We know that nonviolence has been effective in many places, even when it’s only barely resourced or under resourced.  What would it be like if we were prepared to put in the    energy the huge financial resources the commitment over a long period of time, to nonviolent resolution of our conflicts, the world would definitely be a different place.

Q.     So if you were the person deemed with the responsibility of being the change in this way, how would you practically do it?

LH:  What we need is people working at a whole host of levels to change the mindsets, our schools, our history books, telling the successful stories of nonviolence, the situations that give us hope, in our art and music we need to be celebrating peace rather than glorifying violence.  I think in the movies and the games children play we need to be cultivating respect and mutuality rather than again this glorification of the big bangs, the spectacle of violence.  We are enthralled to violence; our culture endlessly presents it to us as valuable, wonderful, extraordinary.   We need to recognise that all we see is the big bang, the spectacle the fireworks, what we don’t see on our screens, and what we really do need to see is the casualties of that violence.  Our culture has completely obliterated the consequences of violence from its screens, comprehension from its imagination. Those things in particular I think are important if we are to shift the mindset.

Q.     Going back to the idea of violent games, particularly with children, there will be people out there will say look it doesn’t affect my child at all, I can put my child in front of a violent game they are not going to go out and kill someone).

LH:  They are probably right, they are probably not going to go out and kill someone.  I think that violence goes deeper than the idea of the most extreme version of taking another person’s life.  Our culture is premised on this idea that if we want to gain something, if we want to be successful, then we have got to be strong, hard, disregarding other people, we’ve got to go after what we want at all costs.  That is a form of violence.  What our culture doesn’t encourage us to do, and what many of these games completely ignore is the importance of cooperative power.  So the person may well be right, a video game about violence does not send someone out to kill.  But what does it do to the person’s approach to their life, their relationships, their immediate relationships, their family.  Does it promote this idea that if you want something you go out and take it or does it encourage young children to think cooperatively and act cooperatively?  That is the question not will it send someone out to kill.

Q.     I will ask you an interesting question I met a famous women here in Australia and based in the United States who is actively involved in the anti-nuclear area.  I went and visited her at her place.  She said ‘you know what the problem with the world is?’ I said ‘no’, she said ‘men’.

LH:  I wouldn’t have said that to you, what she is putting her finger on is something about the way in which men and young boys in particular are socialised into a particular mindset that makes them believe that the best way and the most valuable way to express their masculinity is through violence or through some kind of expression of power over.  So I think she may have put her finger on something there by drawing attention to the link between the way in which men are socialised in many many cultures to believe that they will only truly be fulfilling their masculine identities if they operate in this way.  But I would say that really the hazards exist for all people.  We can recognise in ourselves very easily and quickly when we are prone to anger when we are likely to lash out, when we are likely to blame someone for something that is really our own fault, to externalise the things rather than to try and deal with them. So we can recognise in our experience how we can be inclined to violence ourselves.  I think that is a hazard for human beings, it is part of the ambiguity of being human.  So when our culture promotes that or even condones it, it is very difficult to resist, and it is more difficult to resist when we don’t see this is the way in which we are socialised. I would say that violence is a hazard that everybody encounters and everybody is prone to, I would think the task of peacemaking and peace building is the task for all human beings not just for men or for women.”

10 February, 2005

Mohandas Gandhi

“Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”