Representations of violence in social science textbooks: rethinking opportunities for peacebuilding in the Colombian and South African post-conflict scenarios

13 Jun 2017

Recent years have witnessed violence in educational settings becoming an object of public concern and global mobilisation. International initiatives indicate rising levels of awareness regarding the interconnectedness of violence and education. In this context, international educational agendas identify violence in schools as a challenge to the fundamental rights of children, and as a hindrance to social and economic development. Yet, most of these global initiatives focus on acts of violence - more specifically on teachers' and students' behaviours - neglecting the role of curriculum and textbooks as potential peacebuilding devices. In this study, we analyse the role of textbooks as peacebuilding tools in Colombia and South Africa. These two countries, while situated at different sites on the conflict/post-conflict continuum, both continue to confront the inextricable impact of conflict on social cohesion and peacebuilding. Through an analysis of how Grade 9 social studies textbooks in these countries explain past conflict and how those representations articulate national conflict as part of the peacebuilding process, we And that while there is an extended presence of topics related to conflict and peacebuilding, the textbooks inadequately explore the structural dimension of violence, and the interconnectedness between individual actions, and broader societal arrangements. Rather, through incomplete historical narratives of physical violence, we And that the textbooks analysed become intermediaries of structurally violent regimes, reinforcing the processes and systems that maintain such arrangements.