Clint Fink and the Development of Peace Studies: Research, Education, and Activism

Sometimes it is difficult to separate social movements and ideas from the individuals who participate in them. Such is the case in reference to Clint Fink, whose recent death leads to reflection on his connection to the development of Peace Studies over the last sixty years.As Clint so well documented in monumental archival research, modern movements for, and education about, peace can be traced back at least to the early nineteenth century. With the end of the Napoleonic Wars, groups of people, often affiliated with religious denominations, took up the cause of trying to end forever the bloody wars that had spread across the European continent. While success was obviously limited, concerned theologians, scholars, and activists were able to construct networks of relationships to continue the peace-building process. Peace Societies were formed in the nineteenth century in the United States and a Peace Congress was held in the middle of the century in London. Fink’s research uncovered data on a profusion of lobbying and education mobilizations around peace that pressured for the emergence of new international organizations to address the issue. The Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907, leading to the construction of laws of war, were modest outcomes derived from the growing worldwide advocacy of alternatives to war. Of course, the establishment of the League of Nations after World War l and later the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928 outlawing war represented the most serious byproducts of the growing mobilization to reduce or end war. Much of what we know about two hundred years of grassroots anti-war activities comes from the meticulous scholarship of Clint Fink.As a young student at Swarthmore College in the early 1950s when the threat of World War III  seemed real, Fink became motivated to commit his life to peace research, peace education, and peace activism. He began to gravitate toward an emerging interdisciplinary scholarly community that identified its task as building a new discipline of Peace Research. Fink pursued a Ph.D in Psychology at the University of Michigan and became an active participant in the late 1950s in that university’s new Center for the Study of Conflict Resolution. He became an editor of its new journal, The Journal of Conflict Resolution.Although Fink was convinced that peace scholars could make a contribution to peace-building through their scientific expertise, he always asked questions about how that scholarship could be effectively translated into peace action. He became the conscience of peace research, raising concrete questions about linking scholarship, education, and activism in the 1972 special issue of JCR called “Peace Research in Transition: A Symposium” and his 1980 article in   Peace and Change, “Peace Education and the Peace Movement Since 1815.” In the latter article he summarized some of the research he had conducted concerning early peace education activities, not only to recover a usable past but to gain ideas about historic efforts to link theory and education to practice.Since the 1980s Fink (and his partner Berenice Carroll) continued to do research focused on peace theory and peace action drawing connections between movements for peace and movements for justice (including justice for women, people of color, and workers). They both became chairs of COPRED (the Consortium on Peace Research, Education and Development--currently the Peace and Justice Studies Association) and were active participants in the International Peace Research Association. For a time they edited Peace and Change. In their most recent, and perhaps most significant scholarly work (2007), they edited and wrote an  introduction to Jane Addams’ classic essay, Newer Ideals of Peace.In the extensive introduction Carroll and Fink link Addams’ theoretical and practical work to the core concepts of modern peace studies, addressing both direct and structural violence. They point out that Addams is a significant precursor to modern peace studies in that she theorizes and advocates for linking peace to social justice and scholarship to action. In a sense Fink’s earlier historical explorations were applied to this renewed recognition of Addams’ work as a guide for use in the twenty-first century. Clint Fink was an exemplar of the Addams prescription, linking peace to social justice and theory to practice. Along with multiple writing contributions in the Champaign/Urbana community, Fink organized an editorial team to produce an alternative newspaper in the Greater Lafayette, Indiana community. Community Times, a monthly free distribution newspaper had a ten-year run. It produced news and commentaries on issues of war and peace, racism, sexism, the environment, and an occasional humor piece. Three thousand copies were distributed to about 20 commercial and campus locations. The newspaper reflected Clint’s meticulous editing of text and layout, with appropriate images and photos. And the polished news product was produced before the rise of the internet as a source of information and photo copy.Finally, Clint as a theorist and practitioner, was a lover of music. One of his heroes was Paul Robeson who proclaimed in 1937 that the artist must take a stand against injustice and for the dispossessed. Fink loved singing Robeson’s classic song “Old Man River” with the defiant lyric that Robeson used instead of the defeatist language of the original lyric. Fink performed in plays, sang with feminist folk singer Kristin Lems, and used his love of music, drama, and poetry to advance the cause of economic and social justice and peace. As an aside, Fink took advantage of another cultural skill. He was a punster, who loved the four-line poems of his poetic mentor Ogden Nash.In sum, Clint Fink lived through a time of war, racial violence, and virulent patriarchy. He played a significant role, through scholarship, education, and action, in the struggles against them, rigorously researching, educating, and acting to create a better world. We have lost a piece of history with Clint’s passing.Harry Targ