Teaching for/about Empathy in Peace Education

Authored by: Michalinos Zembylas

The Routledge International Handbook of Perpetrator Studies

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138103245
eBook ISBN: 9781315102887
Adobe ISBN:


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Teaching for/about empathy is one of the pedagogical practices often advocated in peace education. Recent research in this field of study highlights that cultivating feelings of empathy in schools is full of endless intellectual and emotional “land mines.” Teaching about/for empathy in conflict and post-conflict societies is not simply a matter of nurturing critical objective reasoning; working through strongly held collective memories is deeply emotional, and thus, empathy is very difficult to achieve between “victims” and “perpetrators.” Without dismissing the numerous dangers associated with teaching about/for empathy—such as dangers from feelings of pity, voyeurism, or empty sentimentality—this contribution discusses the prospects of highlighting the reconciliatory perspective of empathy in the context of peace education efforts. This more ethically and politically focused interpretation portrays empathy as a movement that draws “victim” and “perpetrator” (those not being absolute predetermined categories) into shared human community, yet without dismissing the asymmetries of suffering and trauma.

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