13. Showing Up in Whole and Healthy Ways

Dr. Tim Seidel has played an integral role in the fields of strategic peacebuilding, global studies and interfaith engagement at Eastern Mennonite University. He brings practical experience in all three fields, having lived and worked in Palestine, Israel, and served as Mennonite Central Committee’s director for peace and justice ministries in the United States.

Seidel shares his journey to EMU, where he has helped to start an undergraduate global studies major and an interfaith studies minor. He also teaches graduate students at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and serves as director of EMU’s Center for Interfaith Engagement

Seidel brings four topics to the podcast conversation and unpacks them in discussion with Kamau: 

  • transnational and anti-colonial connectivity and the politics of solidarity, 
  • critical political economy,
  •  violence, non-violence and resistance, and 
  • religion, interfaith, and the post-secular in politics, peacebuilding, and development. 

The conversation includes probing questions, ranging throughout hundreds of years of global history, touches on popular culture and current events, and follows a critical thread of colonialism into each of the topics.

In a nutshell: “How do we pay attention to the world that we live in today and its colonial constitutions? How do the colonial legacies persist into the present and what are the ways in which people inhabiting this world are struggling and resisting?”

If you’re one of those listeners who thrills to the intellectual “chase,” you will want to come to this 55-minute podcast with some paper and a pen to jot down words and names for further investigation, including the several indigenous and BIPOC scholars, authors, political figures and activists who are referenced.

Many of the ideas and explorations discussed in the episode are explored in Seidel’s scholarly works and associated presentations. For a full list and links, visit his EMU webpage.

Seidel previously taught at American University and Lancaster Theological Seminary. He holds an MTS from Wesley Theological Seminary and a PhD from the School of International Service at American university in Washington DC. At Messiah College, he earned a BA in biochemistry with minors in cultural anthropology and mathematics.


Guest

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Dr. Timothy Seidel

Dr. Tim Seidel teaches courses on peacebuilding, development, and global studies in the Department of Applied Social Sciences and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. He also serves as director for the Center for Interfaith Engagement (CIE). Seidel has worked in various development and peacebuilding contexts in North America and the Middle East, including serving for several years with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), first as peace development worker in Palestine-Israel and then as director for Peace and Justice Ministries in the U.S. Seidel previously taught at American University and Lancaster Theological Seminary. He holds an MTS from Wesley Theological Seminary and a PhD from the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC.


Transcript

Tim:
That example highlights how those connections and those solidarities emerge and take shape without the permission of the, we’ll say the Metropole or the, sort of the imperial or colonial centers of power in the world today, right? So, oftentimes this idea of permission or this idea of visibility or audibility, right, “if I can’t see it, it’s not happening.” “If I can’t hear it, it’s not, it’s not happening.” And to say, well, let’s, let’s, let’s think about that. And of course that’s relevant for our justice and peacebuilding too, you know, wherever we are, where we think, “oh, I don’t see this happening or this isn’t happening according to the categories or the language that I understand,” that means that it’s not happening. And to really, really interrogate that, to really question that which, you know, involves some significant humility too, uh, on the parts of both, uh, academics and practitioners.

Theme music:
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patience:
Hi, everybody happy Wednesday to you! Welcome back to Peacebuilder, a Conflict Transformation podcast by The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. My name is patience kamau and our guest this episode is:

Tim:
Tim Seidel, assistant professor in the department of Applied Social Sciences and The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. And, uh, also serve as director of The Center for Interfaith Engagement.

patience:
Dr. Tim Seidel teaches courses on peacebuilding, development, and global studies in the Department of Applied Social Sciences and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, here at EMU. He also serves as director of the Center for Interfaith Engagement. Seidel has worked in various development and peacebuilding contexts in North America and the Middle East, including serving for several years with Mennonite Central Committee, first as peace development worker in Palestine-Israel and then as director for Peace and Justice Ministries in the U.S. Seidel previously taught at American University and Lancaster Theological Seminary. He holds an MTS from Wesley Theological Seminary and a PhD from the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC.

Theme music:
[Theme music fades back in and plays till end].

patience:
So Tim, let’s talk about EMU and CJP and CIE at Eastern Mennonite University.

Tim:
Yeah. Thank you, patience. Um, so I think, you know, when I think about one of the starting places for this journey, um, I go back several years to, when I first interned, at, the Washington office of Mennonite Central committee, where I met Daryl Byler for the first time –who at that point was the director of the Washington office for MCC Mennonite Central committee. Uhm, and later the director of The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. That’s sort of, uh, one of the starting points for me that I think about in terms of how did I, how did I get to Harrisonburg, Virginia? How did I get to EMU? During that time, I was studying conflict resolution at American University and in particular with Mohammed Abu-Nimer, who knows a lot of folks here at CJP, and so was really formative for me, but I was also studying theology and learning about Mennonites and the Anabaptist tradition. After that, I worked for a number of years, uh, with MCC, uh, ended up working for almost eight years with MCC, uh, first in Palestine, uh, with my wife, Chris, and then also back in the U.S. in their peace and justice ministries, which was a national program department of MCC. And after I finished up that time, I, uh, went back to American University actually, and got my PhD and worked with Mohammed again, and when I was looking at, when I was finishing up that program, an opportunity opened up at EMU that I didn’t imagine I’d end up here, but was, um, really affirmed and encouraged by colleagues and folks like Mohammed and others to, to consider this and to check it out, and, um, I had only visited Harrisonburg Virginia, I think once before. So hadn’t a lot of engagement, had been, didn’t have a huge history or set of even connections here, but pursued it and here we are, uh, what –five, six years later.

patience:
All right. Um, so you teach both in the undergraduate department at EMU, which is, I know it as PXD, but I can never fully remember –what is that fully?

Tim:
[Chuckles] I do. I teach, um, in the undergraduate it’s, uh, “peacebuilding and development.” And in that program, we have, uh, majors that give students the opportunity to focus either specifically on peacebuilding or, uh, specifically on global development. Uh, and then we have a major that combines the two, for students to get an introduction and experience with peacebuilding and development. And so I teach in those programs and more recently also a newer program here at EMU is a “global studies” program that I was part of the team to, um, to develop that…so also teach in that program as well.

patience:
In addition to that, you also teach at The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, which is a graduate program; tell us about that…

Tim:
Yeah, so I teach courses at CJP. Um, most of my teaching actually is undergraduate. Uh, so teaching classes like, you know, “social and political economy” or, uh, “globalization and justice,” and then at CJP the graduate program, my, I teach a global development seminar that includes both graduate and undergraduate, and I teach, I’m one of…I am part of the instructional team for one of “Foundations” seminars. So for our master’s programs at CJP, in particular, the Conflict Transformation and Restorative Justice programs, uh, students take this yearlong “Foundations” seminar, six credit hours, fall, and six credit hours in the spring. And so I have the great privilege of co-teaching the second, the “Foundations II” seminar with Dr. Johonna Turner, and I’ve been doing that for a few years now as well.

patience:
I think when I was going through the program, Foundations II was probably my favorite experience throughout the whole…, um, it had different instructors at the time, but still it was, it was, uh, it was very tough, it was a lot of work, but it was also very, um, informative in so many ways.

Tim:
What was it, patience, what was one of the big things you remember about that class?
I’m sorry… [laughs].

patience:
[Laughing] Um, let’s see. Um, Catherine Barnes was teaching the class at the time and, uh, what I recall was…were our conversations in, now, I’m not going to remember the terms very clearly, but the concepts were, how do systems develop and the complexity within them and how, um, what complexity is necessary…what’s not, and at what point does…do things get too complex that they become so brittle that the system can’t take it anymore, that it just then breaks, uh, versus actually having systems that can bend with the changes and accommodate. Um, and that’s just a very, very simple explanation of it, but we went into great discussions of just how systems are formed, which of course includes governments and how those evolve that some…one thing is created and another then forms that then is dependent on that. And how those just keep adding on top of one another, you know, for example, the formation of Nation States that then created the need for boundaries and borders, um, which then created the formation of passports and then departments that have to then run those passports and all that…anyway, all that sort of stuff and how it all just interrelates; which interestingly touches a bit on what we’re going to be talking about today.

Tim:
All right…

patience:
Um, but anyway, um, the piece of paper that I was reading that of the topics that we were preparing about what to talk about today, um, you listed four areas in which are conversations you’re currently engaging. So I’m just going to list them and hopefully we can go through them together. Does that sound okay?

Tim:
Sure, thank you.

patience:
All right. So the first one, um, is Transnational and anticolonial connectivity and the politics of solidarity; uh, Critical political economy; Violence, nonviolence, and resistance, and fourth, um, Religion, interfaith, and the postsecular in politics, peacebuilding and development. So let’s go through that and tell us about them. So, what’s “Transnational and anticolonial connectivity and the politics of solidarity”?

Tim:
For that area…so those are four…when I think about where my interests kind of are, are gathered and collecting these days, um, and the conversations with my colleagues and partners I have in those conversations. So for this one, with Transnational, anticolonial connectivities in particular, there’s a project I’m working on that looks at how one, you know, we pay attention to the world that we live in today, and it’s sort of it’s the colonial constitution of the world, right? How the, how the, the colonial legacies, you know, if we pay attention to history, um, we observe how those colonial legacies persist into the, into the present, right? That, that the past isn’t so past. And so with this conversation, looking at how then folks inhabit that world in ways, um, that, that struggle against and resist the barr…so you mentioned some of those barriers and boundaries, right? That really stood out to you when you took Foundations II, right? So how, how do those barriers and boundaries prevent people from being with each other, from collaborating, from, uh, living? Um, and so in this conversation, we’re trying to figure out how folks do that, how they connect, how they, uh, how they find, um, patterns and avenues of solidarity to struggle against in their particular places or in their particular –cause all struggle is local, all struggle, as you know, is local. And the things that, that are struggled against are global in their remits, right? The systems in those structures, right. Those trends and forces. And so how then do folks not only struggle in their places, right, but also then connect with others, as others struggle in their places in ways that create a global or transnational and anti-colonial impact or expression. Yeah, does that make sense?

patience:
Yes, it does, it does! And what it brings to mind, interestingly, as you were saying that is, I think the connection, obviously from afar between, um, the, Islamic Civil Rights movement in the United States that was connecting with, uh, like Palestine and vice-versa like…getting energy, look at the, what this movement is doing here…could we actually be doing that here, you know, in this other place and vice-versa. And I mean, that’s obviously increasing more and more as we are more connected or the, the world shrinks virtually, uh, yeah. That’s what comes to mind when, when you say something like that…does that make sense to you?

Tim:
Yeah. And I think that example highlights how those connections and those solidarities emerge and take shape without the permission of the, we’ll say the Metropole or the, sort of the imperial or colonial centers of power in the world today, right? So, oftentimes this idea of permission or this idea of visibility or audibility, right, “if I can’t see it, it’s not happening.” “If I can’t hear it, it’s not, it’s not happening.” And to say, well, let’s, let’s, let’s think about that. And of course that’s relevant for our justice and peacebuilding too, you know, wherever we are, where we think, “oh, I don’t see this happening or this isn’t happening according to the categories or the language that I understand,” that means that it’s not happening. And to really, really interrogate that, to really question that which, you know, involves some significant humility too, uh, on the parts of both, uh, academics and practitioners..

patience:
Yeah, what’s, what’s the role of civil society in making that thrive?

Tim:
Yeah. If, and if civil society is a space is a social political, economic space that is not bound to the state, for example, um, or even the market, um, if we can say that, then we could say that, you know, civil society is an important space where those connections and those solidarities, you know, might emerge. And as we observe that, and as we conclude that we’re also mindful of, you know, what does it mean to claim that one is outside of the bounds of, of the political and economic domination of the market or the state, right? And so then, you know, how we understand the complexity of that, even as we struggle, even as we acknowledge the struggle of others, too.

patience:
Yeah. What comes up with that in your classes or even in your research?

Tim:
Oh, well, so I was part of a wonderful, uh, participated, I viewed a wonderful symposium –actually it was yesterday– some, some colleagues and friends down at Virginia Tech had this, really great symposium, looking at some of these questions of colonial legacies and decolonial possibilities or the possibilities of decolonization and a phrase that really stood out to me from, um, a gentleman who, um, a native American or First Nations, uh, scholar, in Canada, who talked about, how…ask the question, how do we de-center the state in our political imaginations? And he had this phrase that really stood out to me; he says, you know, our work as, as indigenous folks is to make the state redundant. And so I think that, that really captures an important sensibility for me in my classes too, and my own, you know, as I’ve found a home in the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition, I think that really resonates there too, where we think about identity and community in ways that makes the state redundant, uh, or de-centers the state. And so that’s, that’s an important thing that I try to bring into my classes, you know, to help us imagine other forms and even other orders, other political economic orders that might not take something like the nation state as a point of departure, or even as a frame of reference.

patience:
Ooh, wow! To make the state redundant? The state might rebel against that quite a bit, and it probably does [both laugh] in its own ways. Uh, it wants to be very, very relevant. Um, you’ve mentioned a couple of times the legacies of colonialism, and you also mentioned that you lived in the Middle East, Palestine. Um, what do you think the…can you talk a little bit about the effects of –what was it, the Sykes-Picot agreement and uh…

Tim:
Oh my…

patience:
[Both chuckle] Yeah, how has that affected life today? Because I think that continues to unfold.

Tim:
Yeah…

patience:
…and when was that — the late 19th, early 20th, 19th century? When was like Sykes-Picot signed?

Tim:
It was 19…yeah, early 20th century. Yes, Sykes-PicotSites, patience, you’re bringing us back to the post World War one era in the region, yeah. So I, in every once in a while, every other year, I also have the privilege of teaching a “History of the Middle East” class, which is, I enjoy so much because that era did shape a lot of not only that region, but the world. I mean, um following the 1918 –the end of the world war one– um, in that region, you had a lot of interests…there still are [chuckles] a lot of interests in the Middle East and in North Africa, and so Sykes-Picot was this interesting, uh, problematic, arrangement between the British and the French to create new maps. Um, and maps are so powerful, aren’t they? Um, they’re so powerful. Let’s go back to your comments on borders and boundaries –it’s so powerful because they’ve visibilize, completely fictitious imaginary lines in the sand, right, they’re not real [patience laughs], and yet they determine, and yet they determine who can go, who can stay here and who can’t stay here…

patience:
…and in a lot of ways, that means they determine who can live and who can die; who can actually thrive and who cannot…

Tim:
Exactly, exactly. It speaks to how, while for some of us, you know, this globalizing order feels like things are just coming closer together for us around the world, you know, economically or culturally, right. But for others of us, this globalizing order has stretched us even further. Um, Homi Bhabha once said that the greatest distance for the displaced person, uh, the greatest distance for refugee is, is the step across a border. So here are these, here are these borders in a place called the Middle East, which, where did that name come from? But anyway, here’s the, here’s this, here are these borders in the Middle East, um, that are shaped, continue to be reshaped and reproduced, and we can go back to, yeah, Sykes-Picot, this British-French “behind closed doors” agreement to, to carve up the remnants of the Ottoman empire. And so we have, yeah, if you know, the story, patience that with the French, you know, was, was sort of granted the mandate over what is today, Syria, and what is today Lebanon and the British were granted the mandate of what is today, Iraq and Jordan and Palestine; which Palestine is the only one of those mandates that actually never became a state. Um, but that those borders and the idea itself of the state, came from a place. Um, it’s not a natural normal…right? This is part of what I also try to do is, is to de-naturalize these ideas for my students, is this, what did this idea come from? Where did this map come from? And so Sykes-Picot is just one of those parts of the story that produced what we have today, when we look at a map of the world.

patience:
Yeah. Where did the idea of a state come from?

Tim:
Where did the idea? [laughs].

patience:
Yeah, like how did that develop…if we can do that in…

Tim:
…[both laugh] do you remember, do you remember this in Foundations II?

patience:
[Laughs] I do not, I do not, please remind me…

Tim:
Yeah, well, I mean, we, I mean, one of the things that I, I often talk about with my students is how the idea of the state and then the system itself, um, we can trace back to at least the 17th century with the Peace of Westphalia, following all those Wars in Europe, that, you know, this kind of, these concepts of sovereignty, right? These concepts of borders and of citizenship and of rights and all those things that we can trace back to some of those periods of time in Europe; it came from Europe. And then how did it get from Europe to other parts of the world? How did that happen?

patience:
Colonialism!

Tim:
Well, there you go, right. You have a system, an idea, and then a system that’s spread through these imperial and colonial projects.

patience:
Mm-hm, how does democracy fit in there? Is it a colonial project or is it not…what’s? What are your thoughts on that?

Tim:
[Laughs] Democracy from whom, right?

patience:
[Laughing] Right!
[Sarcastically] The details, Tim, why are you bothered about the details?

Tim:
Yeah! Well, I think, you know, as we think about these concepts and systems, um, and we recognize that they have a history, right? And that they have particular…anything that has a history, there’s, there’s an interest, right, to that system, to that concept that benefits some folks and might not benefit, might not be benefiting other folks. And so again, asking those sorts of question of who benefits from this idea of democracy, who’s benefiting from this, from this border line, from this checkpoint, right, from this wall, who’s benefiting from the…this is a real important question that we can ask in all of my classes.

patience:
Yeah, and how does uh, critical political economy factor into all of this? What is it, what is critical political economy anyway? How would you define it?

Tim:
Yeah, so that –if political economy is trying to understand the relationship between politics and economics and the way that power is manifest together, right? You know, and that, that the market and the state aren’t just two discrete, separate realms of activity. Um, the critical piece is the part that asks that, “who benefits” question again, um, by paying particular attention to the history and development of capitalism and the ongoing legacy of, of colonialism, um, in particular, in both areas of particular, um, how it’s racialized and gendered, which, which also then speaks to the “who benefits” question, because both the, both of those pieces, you know, the history of capital and the history of empire…

patience:
…go hand-in-hand…

Tim:
…they go hand-in-hand, yeah.

Transition music:
[Transition music plays].

patience:
So you’re writing a paper on the Palestine-Mexico border. Can you talk about that and how political economy factors into that? [Tim laughs] And why the Palestine-Mexico border?

Tim:
Uhm, and why the why the Palestine-Mexico border. So that was a term that was coined by a journalist Jimmy Johnson several years ago. And what it is meant to do is to show how the border regime on the US-Mexico border and the border regime in Palestine, that Israel has built a wall with checkpoints and the system of closures; how those two regimes aren’t accidental to each other. And so the political, the political economic, you know, sort of analytical piece to that is to say, yeah, who benefits from those regimes, the checkpoints, the walls, the towers, the border patrols, the drones, right? And where do they come from? And we find that there are significant global business connections, even, um, between those two discrete places, right? They are different places, but remember that struggle is always place-based –in a place–

patience:
…it’s local…

Tim:
It’s local. And, if I see that drone flying overhead, is the same…made from the same company of a drone that’s flying over head or somewhere, halfway around the world, then I should pay attention to that. Why is that? How does that happen? Um, and so my, my inquiry into the Palestine-Mexico boarder is both had an inquiry into how do these regimes, how are they constructed and how are they resisted? How are they struggled against, because both of those regimes, we can identify –again in this history of capital and history of empire– where there are, there are always, always struggle, always struggle, but again, I might not see it, I might not hear it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. There’s always struggle. And in this particular case, it’s specific local place-based struggles that have actually linked up and connected, right, with that anticolonial, transnational, um, sensibility or even goal, uh, that, that drives that, that connectivity.

patience:
It’s interesting that you gave that example, you know, of a drone that’s flying over one border in North America and another in the Middle East –yeah, why is it called the Middle East? The middle of what east? [Both laugh], That’s an interesting question for another time; but that’s interesting because it, it reminds me of former president late Dwight Eisenhower –what was it, what was that phrase that he used about militarism?

Tim:
Oh, the military industrial complex.

patience:
Yes! And it’s, it’s just become global obviously, given that, what do you think about that?

Tim:
The military industrial complex?

patience:
Yes, and its relation to the Palest…you know, political economy.

Tim:
Yeah. Well, and I would, I would also add uh, another descriptor that relates to this, that Angela Davis talks about with the prison industrial complex too. Because when we start talking about walls and border regimes and regimes meant to enclose people, detain people, we start talking about here in the US these histories of incarceration as well, that are not unrelated to these borders, um, that we observed at the US-Mexico border or, or the wall in Palestine. And so, um, I think the, the industrial piece that we can find in a number of these descriptors, I think yeah, it speaks again to the history of capital and how, um, or as, um, Cedric Robinson called it Racial Capitalism, right? “Racial Capital” to talk about how those histories, how the history of capital has always been wrapped up in histories of historically, right, racialized plunder, racialized theft, racialized enslavement, and then today racialized incarceration too.

patience:
Histories of exploitation, basically.

Tim:
Yeah, right.

patience:
Yeah, let’s move on to the third one, Violence, non-violence and resistance. Um, so how do you think about that?

Tim:
Yeah. This, this one also, really, yeah…so when you, when you asked the question earlier, patience about my own story, how did I get here? I think of…when I think of my work and my teaching and my writing, um, it’s, it’s so it’s so autobiographical too, isn’t it? It’s, you know, we trace these genealogies of why, why am I interested in these things? Or why are we interested in these things? So this is something that, again, I trace back to my experience in Palestine and living in Palestine and thinking about how –and my commitments to non-violence too– um, from a, from a, both an ethical and a theological perspective. But with this, this conversation, um, I’m interested in thinking about those dominant categories again, right? Violence, non-violence, or…again, those aren’t natural categories. Somebody decides –not only decides what is, or isn’t violence– they prescribe it and say, you are, or you are not violent or nonviolent, right? And so, um, and so, yeah, when I, when I think about my work in Palestine, how do those, how do those categories mapped onto a place like Palestine, right, from sort of the external observers or, you know, the, uh, what we might call the, the imperial or the colonial, or the “white gaze” upon a place like Palestine. We, we, we map those categories –again, maps are so powerful– onto a place like Palestine, but then represents people in a particular way.

patience:
Yeah. Especially when you’re saying, um, how we categorize violence or non-violence, that’s interesting to me, because –especially since post 9-11, um, the use of terrorists has really, I mean, I mean, it always was, but it feels to me like it proliferated quite a bit, um, at that time…and it’s all very subjective. Who decides who’s the terrorist, I’m sure the terrorist doesn’t think that they’re a terrorist, they are fighting for what they believe is, you know, and especially if that then collides with a concept that you talked about earlier of trying to make the state, uh, what was it? Uh, irrele…redundant?

Tim:
Redundant, yeah.

patience:
Yes. Yes. Uh, and that’s interesting to me how those two would collide and then who’s labeled as an undesirable by the system and how those decisions are made.

Tim:
That’s a, I think that’s a really important observation and asking that question of, you know, whose violence or whose nonviolence, whose terrorism, or who is, you know, you know, the classic, terrorist or freedom fighter kind of categorization. Um, and again, going back to that critical piece, somebody benefits from that categorization. This isn’t an attempt to relativize, or sort of like this abstract kind of academic exercise about categories, but this is, this is a very, these are clear manifestations of power, right? The power to name, the power to map the power to include or exclude. And so in justice and peacebuilding work, it’s for me, it’s, it’s a, it’s a reminder to think really seriously about not only those categories, but whose categories are we using as we do our conflict analysis, for example, or as we do our policy advocacy, or as we do our community organizing, um, which is to say, who’s, who’s part of that who gets to determine, who gets to play a role in determining those categories because of their lived experiences, and so I think the terrorism or the terrorist example is a great one because yeah, some of the stuff I write about, I think that binary the violence/non-violence binary, cause it’s, it’s…that’s where I’m interested in it and how it’s, it’s either an it’s an either, or I think it’s actual function sometimes as a binary as an either, or is not to, is not to observe violence and nonviolence, it’s to authorize some people’s activities and de-authorize other people’s activities; peoples who are not incidentally, racialized and gendered in particular ways in those discourses, right? So when I, when I say that’s violence I’m de-authorizing, um, yeah, or when I say that’s nonviolence, I’m saying that’s okay. And so I’m trying to look below that to say, how is that at work, when we do our, our justice and peacebuilding? And there’s histories to it too, because in a place like palace and the history is, uh, violence and there’s for, for, for, again, with those, those particular, the racialization and gendering of particular bodies in particular places, um, as a white guy, I don’t have to defend my actions as non-violent all the time, right, but I…who, for whom do we observe having to make the case that they’re not violent, make the case and people’s imaginations, and in people’s politics and, and people’s sort of, uh, economics that they’re not violent that they are, you know…so I think that’s that authorization/de-authorization piece, that when we viewed the histories, there are, there are trends that we can observe. In this country, how some folks, some communities in particular, uh, communities of color are, or poor, poor communities, disadvantaged communities are talked about in ways where that, that, you know, that defensive posture is the starting point. Does that make sense?

patience:
Yeah. I mean, it does, it completely makes sense and where it takes me –two areas! Um, and we, we don’t have to look too far past, you know, our history, just this past summer, the response of the state to the Black Lives Matter protests versus the response, or lack thereof, um, on January 6th. Right there was, was very visible difference.

Tim:
Yeah, and we can use the language of violence, we can also use language of “threat” as well..for whom are racialized, as threats in our communities. Which again, we have to go back to the whole prison industrial complex again, and how those institutions have a history that emerged out of, you know, the sense of necessity because of those “threats.” But if, but if we examine those –threats for whom, where do those “threats” come from, right? When, when a group of white folks, you know, March on the Capitol versus, uh, or here’s another example, I don’t know if you remember, um, I haven’t written about this, but I’ve thought about –it was a few years back, some folks out in the Midwest or out in the Northwest, in the U.S. decided they were just going to take over some public land?

patience:
Oh yeah, that’s right, Oregon. Yeah. It was in Oregon or Washington, somewhere over there…

Tim:
…something like that. I’m forgetting, I’m forgetting the name. There was a family, there was like a couple, a couple of guys, a couple of white guys.

patience:
I know exactly who you mean!

Tim:
You know what I’m talking about? And when that was going on…and it was just like, “ahhh, you know,” and the government, the state was like, “ahhh, you know,” [patience laughs] but then I thought, you know, in 1973, ’73 or ’74, when Native American/Indigenous folks went to Wounded Knee, the American Indian Movement went to Wounded Knee, it was, I think one of the first times in American history, the United States Army, not the National Guard, the United States Army was deployed on American soil.

patience:
Oh God!

Tim:
And so I thought about that, I’m like, “huh, so here we are, and these, these white fellows can just take over this land and the state just sort of throws its hands up”…

patience:
…shows an incredible amount of patience with them…

Tim:
…and a very different understanding of “who belongs: and “who doesn’t belong,” right?

patience:
Of course, yeah!

Tim:
Right, with Native American/Indigenous folks who, you know, any sort of –this is part of the colonial legacy, the settler colonial legacy in particular– any, any claim to land, right, that is outside of the State is seen as, uh, as violence.

patience:
Yeah. Um, I’m also curious about this, um, “authorization” of, you know, or “de-authorization” of, of violence and nonviolence when it comes to…let’s go back to the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement here, and the fallacious dichotomy between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Um, what are your thoughts on that? [both laugh] Clearly one was categorized as being nonviolent and the other one was, um, being framed in a very different light.

Tim:
So my first response is everybody’s should read James Cone’s book on this very issue [laughs], James Cone the late, uh, Black theologian from Union who passed away just a couple of years ago. Um, he wrote, you know, cause that, that, that binary that you just named is, uh, you know, why does that continue to show up in our public discourse? Because it’s not true…

patience:
…it’s not true.

Tim:
Right, it’s not true, but why does, why does it persist? And so it persists because it performs a particular function. Like it’s doing some work in our heads and in our policies.

patience:
What is that function?

Tim:
Well, there you go, what is that work? I don’t know. I mean, what, what comes to mind? What, what difference, why does that distinction? Why is that distinction helpful? Why, why and narrated that way, what do you think patience?

patience:
I don’t know. Um, I mean the most obvious –and I don’t even know whether this is accurate or not, I’d be curious what other people think– is the religious difference.

Tim:
Yeah.

patience:
One was Muslim and the other was Christian. Uh, the nation…is sorry, the United States, when I say “the nation,” I realize it could mean “The Nation of Islam,” [both laugh] um, the United States sees itself as founded on Christianity, um, and all that. And the legacies that, that brings…the familiarity with the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian felt more acceptable, maybe? Um, and thus could be, looked at through a lens that was probably more palatable to, I don’t know [chuckles]…the colonial powers within the United States. Um, and, and that was probably not the same with Malcolm X. So I don’t know, what do you think, do you, do you think I’m way off base here?

Tim:
I think that’s an important point. I think thinking about faith is really important on that front, because I think that faith is always, is also racialized and gendered in particular ways, too, right? Um, this is where I am really, really excited in a couple of weeks. We’re going to have a guest, our March colloquium speaker here at EMU is Dr. Saher Selod from Simmons up in Boston, and she’s written about the racialization of Muslims post 9/11 as well in America. So I think that, I think you have something there in terms of faith. Um, I think, I think it’s, yeah, there’s a lot going on with that, um, in terms of which King are we remembering as we cast that King against the Malcolm X that we’re remembering, right? Cause there, historically we can look back and there are, you know, Dr. “Kings” that folks didn’t look at as favorably, um, as they might today, and so there’s a, there’s this remembrance piece too, right? When Dr. King is, is, is condemning the Vietnam war, for example, you know, compared to the Dr. King, you know, delivering the, “I have a dream” speech. Um, so I think, I think there’s that too, where we select the “Kings” and we select the, the, the Malcolm “Xs,” um, in order to, in order to construct this binary that you just named.

patience:
I mean [chuckles], the United States did not like –at least the government– at the very least, maybe more specifically, the FBI was not a fan of Martin Luther King. Um, at least…there’re narratives out there that, uh, the FBI director at the time, Hoover, was so concerned about a Black Messiah rising that he just placed so much, so many resources to destroy Dr. King’s reputation at the very least.

Tim:
Yeah. By the way, have you seen that movie?

patience:
Yes. Yeah-yeah-yeah, the recent one! Yes, yes, yes. Um, what, what is it? 
What’s uh…, “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

Tim:
Right, about Fred Hampton.

patience:
That’s right, exactly. Yup. He was so young. My goodness.

Tim:
He was so young!

patience:
He died…he was assassinated at what, 22?

Tim:
21.

patience:
21, yeah.

Tim:
And you know, so this is great. So Fred Hampton for, for folks who don’t know, Fred Hampton was, uh, the leader of the Black Panther Party in Chicago and, you know, something that we actually do that Johonna and I have done in our class in Foundations II, is when we start asking these sorts of questions, right, we start kind of de-naturalizing a little bit about, “well, of course this is what a peacebuilder looks like,” or “this is what a social justice activist looks like.” We start dialing…sort of peeling that off a little bit, and we’ve actually lifted up Fred Hampton. “Fred Hampton, was he a peacebuilder?” Right? He brought the, he created this incredible –at 21, this coalition that was unprecedented, I think, and so, you know, when we ask these sorts of questions, it starts to, it allows us to see and to hear, in different ways, and to imagine in different ways.

patience:
Yeah, I mean, it just, if he had…if he was able to accomplish that by the time he was 21, can you just imagine what could have been?I mean, these are the thoughts…where I think about when I try to imagine if, if these, these, uh, acts of progress had not been disrupted with such violence, you know, and I, you know, I think of him obviously of Martin Luther King, I think of Malcolm X, I think of, uh, the reversing of reconstruction after the civil war. Uh, I mean, all these things that are violently crushed and just brought to a complete end. Anyway, it just, uh, I mourn when I think about the possibilities and where this country, where this world would be, if those had succeeded.

Tim:
And the other side of that too, is, is how we acknowledge the incredible things that have been going…continue, like the continuities and in particularly, so we’ve been talking primarily about men in these stories too, so, you know, some of the, some of the, the women in those movements who kept things going and continue to do that too. It’s just, there’s, just to acknowledge that, just to sort of name that too, as we, as we think about what could have been, yeah.

patience:
Thank you, right, thank you for doing that.

Transition music:
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patience:
Let’s talk about the fourth one, which is “Religion, interfaith and the postsecular in politics, peacebuilding and development.” I’m particularly interested in the, in the portion about how knowledge or expertise is located; let’s talk about that because obviously some cultures, some communities, you know, for example, pass their knowledge and their wisdom and expertise through oral histories, instead of writing them down versus other cultures, obviously Western culture, which has mostly been about writing…and then over time, it’s been assumed that [chuckles] that’s where all the knowledge lies. Anyway, I’m curious to hear about your thoughts there.

Tim:
Mm-hm, well, that’s a great point, a great reminder about narrative and knowledge and where that’s held and where and where those archives are, right. Where those archives are that we can go to, that we need to build or contribute to. I think for this, so, you know, and this relates to some of my thinking about, and some of the ways that we talk about interfaith engagement at The Center for Interfaith Engagements, um, is how, how faith and spirituality, how, how that can open up in particular in a world, in the U.S. or in other, other parts of the world, where are…the prevailing political and social and economic systems have been? What one might call –uh, defined through through secular terms, which again, we’re thinking about binaries again, um, the secular religious binary and how that in a place like the U.S. or in other places like in Europe, for example, the language of secular authorizes in the language of faith or religiosity, maybe not de-authorizes, but says “you haven’t caught up yet,” right? [Both laugh] Which is part of that colonial legacy, right. Dipesh Chakrabarty, who is, uh, a South Asian scholar, uh, writes about how, you know, a particular understanding of history where some folks, right, history is just like a, it’s like a train it’s like, and we’re all on, we’re all on the track, um, we’re just at different stages, right. Um, and for some folks, they they’re farther along, they are farther back on the track because of their excessive religiosity. And of course in that theory of history, the train is just going to Europe [chuckles] –that’s where everything’s heading, um, that’s that Eurocentrism [laughs]. But when I think about this and, and the post secular, or the way to think outside of…think beyond kind of that secular, you know, state centric, frame of reference is to imagine a more interruptive, you know, uh, uh, perspective of, of history and, and society that again, reminds me to pay attention to what’s going on. Um,…

patience:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, Tim, um, how does this connect with your spiritual health? How does this feed your spirit, this area of work and exploration and research?

Tim:
So, I think one of the ways is it moves me to live an integrated life, um, you know, with some of these categories and some of these distinctions and some of these either/ors, the implication is that we, we disintegrate ourselves, don’t we, right? “I’m going to put this part of myself over here,” “I’m going to put this part of myself over here.” Um, and, and we might not ever bring all of our self together. And so, you know, when, when we’re talking through talking through these four pieces, um, they reflect different aspects –like, like I said earlier of my own journey of my own, my own story, even. So in that regard, it’s a spirituality that looks to live in an integrated way. And, and one of the ways that happens too, for me, by paying attention to relationships and pain…cause isn’t it, isn’t it the case that sometimes where we are most whole, when we can be our most, whole selves with somebody or with some place or with some time? So, I mean, and it goes back to my understanding of knowledge and responsibility and teaching and scholarship and all that stuff too. But, um, thinking about all of those relations and all of those relationships, as well as, as pieces that are part of me that are integrated into who I am. And, um, it’s a struggle to figure out how to bring that to everything I do, right. How to, you know, we say sometimes how to show up in those whole and healthy ways. And I don’t always do it…I don’t it’s a struggle sometimes…

patience:
Any, any example come to mind where you felt so aligned, um, where you fully showed up? And yeah, where that alignment happened for you, that you’re able to share with us?

Tim:
Hmm. It’s a couple stories that come to mind; both in the classroom [laughs]. Um, I mean, one example that comes to mind is I was teaching a class like a few years ago now, peacebuilding, undergraduate peacebuilding class, and we were talking about theories of structural violence, right. And as a class, you know, myself, my students kind of just really wrestling with despair, right. Wrestling with that discouragement of these, these systems of domination and oppression that are baked into the structure, right. It’s not a, it’s not a technical fix. It’s baked into the structure. And so I had a student just asked me, well then how do you, what do you do? How are you responding? How are you feeling? I mean, what, what do you do with this? And in the face of this? And I found myself in that moment, two things came to mind –one was I heard Marx [laughs] Marx who, you know, Karl Marx who talked about never, never shying away from a ruthless criticism of everything that is. And telling my students, I, I felt like I could do that, I could kind of stay with that because I don’t approach those structures –and I don’t approach history even as a progressive series of events, right. That somehow today we’re better off than we were a thousand years ago, or that linear, progressive perspective issue…I don’t, I don’t take that on because…which is to say as, as a, as a person who’s Christian, identifies as Christian in my faith, I can say that some sort of resolution –not complete– happened 2000 years ago with the life death and resurrection of Jesus. And that, that has implications for how I respond without, without despair in a contemporary…taking up Marx’s call, the critique because of that faith that I try to integrate into my teaching and living and et cetera.

patience:
How does, how does that manifest for you on a day-to-day basis?

Tim:
Oh, there’s so many tensions, aren’t there? So many tensions and my relationships help me find a way through those tensions, wonderful conversations at home with my wife, Chris and my kids, my children [laughs], uh, help me with that. But yeah, there’s, it’s, there’s tension. There’s so much tension there.

patience:
What do you mean by “tension”?

Tim:
Well, the, the, the, the, you know, feeling pulled and feeling, you know, really feeling the, the incompleteness of it all, or at least I, I hope I feel that way, cause it is incomplete, I mean, whenever when everyone gets the sense of, “Oh, this is it, we’re complete.” “We can end this conver…patience, we can end the conversation, we’re good –podcasts, the Peacebuilder podcast is over,” [both laughing]…

patience:
…we’ve figured it all out…

Tim:
…”we’ve figured it out!” Then we are in, that’s an indicator that something is wrong, so…

patience:
…you welcome the tension.

Tim:
Yeah, right, right.

patience:
And the ability to hold that, you attribute to your faith, to navigate that at least?

Tim:
Mm-hm, yeah, the particularity of my story, right, of my day-to-day, um, is something I’m responsible for, and it’s, it’s not the whole story…

patience:
…it’s ongoing…

Tim:
It’s ongoing.

patience:
All right. So we are almost here toward the end. So I have two questions for you. Is there anything that we haven’t covered yet that you would like to talk about and two, what book have you recently read that you would like to share with our listeners…that you’re like, everybody should read this book or even a movie?

Tim:
Oh man!

patience:
Anything, yeah. What would you, so those two things…

Tim:
No other questions are coming to mind. I think we’ve had a wonderful conversation. I’m sure there’s lots of questions about CJP we could also ask, but…

patience:
…[chuckles] we’ll leave those for another season.

Tim:
So one of the books I’ve really enjoyed recently, um, this was my holiday, uh, treat myself reading break, was a book, um, a recent book by Eddie Glaude Jr. called “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America, and It’s Urgent Lessons for Our Own,” and I was able to read this in conversation with, with a really good friend too. And this is a great book, um, really good stuff. Um, Eddie Glaude Jr. teaches at Princeton, right? Um, and I…Baldwin is somebody James Baldwin, uh African-American uh, essayist, playwright, um, an activist, uh, was really, really formative for me, both spiritually and intellectually and this recent book, uh, by Glaude, um, that’s, it’s sort of autobiographical, uh, for Glaude and, uh, really just provided some wonderful insights into Baldwin’s, own tumultuous journey and how he made it through –as a way of reading the current moment that we’re in, in the United States of America.

patience:
One more question comes to mind. You said that Baldwin was very formative to you in what ways can you tell me one or two?

Tim:
Yeah. Um, I was…Dr. Josiah Young is a theology professor at Wesley Theological Seminary, and he introduced me to, to Baldwin in a class, um, at seminary where we dug into the question of love, “what is love?” And “what does it mean to love each other?” And Baldwin’s writing on love I think for me that, that’s where the, that has been terribly formative and thinking about love in ways that’s challenging and invitational at the same time. Um, have you, have you been able to get into Baldwin at all patience?

patience:
No. No, no. Not as much as I would like…on my to-do list!

Tim:
Yeah. He doesn’t hold back in speaking the truth about the United States of America, but in a way where there’s this vision of love…for me, I, there’re few places and voices, um, I’ve encountered it that way.

patience:
All right, I have nothing more, Tim. So thank you so very much for taking the time to do this.

Tim:
Thank you patience.

patience:
It’s been fun!

Tim:
Well, same here. Very, very much appreciate it. 
Thank you.

patience:
All right, bye-bye.

Tim:
All right, bye bye.

patience:
Earlier in the episode, Tim referenced a phrase about “making the state redundant.” He would like to note that he heard it in a talk by Dr. Jeff Corntassel from the Cherokee Nation who is Associate Professor in the Indigenous Studies Department at the University of Victoria.

~

Dr. Seidel is is co-editor of the book Palestine and Rule of Power: Local Dissent vs. International Governance. He has a new edited book coming out later this spring titled Political Economy of Palestine: Critical, Interdisciplinary, and Decolonial Perspectives (co-edited with Alaa Tartir and Tariq Dana). He is also working with his colleague Alina Sajed co-editing a special issue for the journal Postcolonial Studies titled “Anticolonial Connectivity and the Politics of Solidarity: Between Home and the World.

Outro music:
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patience:
All the music you hear on this podcast has been composed by the one and only, Luke Mullet, our audio mixing engineer extraordinary, is Stephen Angello. And, I am the podcast executive producer, audio recording engineer, editor and host patience kamau. As you are able, please remember to subscribe, rate and review this podcast so that other peacebuilders may find it. We’ll be back with a new episode in two weeks. Thanks so much for listening and join us again, next time.

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1 comment on “13. Showing Up in Whole and Healthy Ways”

  1. Sarah Nahar says:

    Thank you for the transcript. It was a great read!

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