Views & Reviews
Groundbreaking discourse on ‘Self-Determination’ – an action research
It is with great joy and pride I take this opportunity to congratulate my good friend Mr. Akum Longchari, Editor of The Morung Express for being conferred the ‘Doctor of Philosophy’ (on November 5th, 2013) by the Academic Board and the Council of University of New England, NSW Australia for his ‘unique’ and ’original’ research thesis on the theme “Sharing Dreams, Strengthening Visions: The Right to Self-Determination as a resource for JustPeace (An unrepresented peoples’ perspective)”. Akum’s research work was to challenge the existing perspective that ‘Self-Determination’ is a cause of ‘Conflict’ and to provide an evolving alternative where ‘Self-Determination’ is actually a resource for ‘Justpeace’. His research attempted to draw lessons from the indigenous Peoples’ perspectives, which to him is a human point of view, beyond the legal perspectives or practices. The research brought out key elements for greater dialogue around the issue of ‘Self-Determination’ for both state and peace seekers, and opened opportunities for larger global discourse on the subject of Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation.
One of the leading academician in the field of International Peace Building and Professor of Conflict Transformation, Dr. John Paul Lederach, from University of Notre Dome, Indiana, USA who was one of the examiners of his thesis wrote, ‘this is one of the first (and certainly one of the most detailed with case specific reflections and original interviews) to conceptually address self-determination as contributive to justpeace, with a focus of conflict transformation and peace building. Much of this in the existing literature tents to view self-determination as somehow unrealistic and embedded in narrow definition of identity such as the challenge of ‘ethnic conflict’. He went on to emphasis that this thesis makes a significant contribution to the field of Peace Studies. Prof. Lederach opined that Akum’s thesis has made indigenous peoples’ views a prominent place in the field of peace studies, which is very rare and unique. He went on to argue that the thesis deserves a Cum Laude for its originality and strongly recommended it be published.
Another examiner, Dr. Jayson MacLeod, Lecturer of Community Development, University of Queensland, Australia, practitioner and peace activist actively involved in West Papua Issues remarked, ‘the author sensitively explores the terrain of this evolving self-determination praxis and breaks the deadlock created by rigid zero sum arguments that defines self determination solely as secession. What emerges is not just self-determination praxis as a process and resource for justpeace, space is also created for considering, re-discovering or re-inventing new forms of indigenous governance and shared boundaries between different peoples’. He added that ‘the thesis breaks new grounds and offers a unique contribution to the literatures of self-determination and conflict transformation, inviting scholars to consider the ways self-determination can support both processes and outcomes for a just peace’. He calls the thesis an ‘Action Research’ that ‘artfully weaves together practice and scholarship and paves the way for future work in both domains’. He called for the thesis to be widely published for international scholars.
Dr. Nel Vendekerchove, professor of Conflict Studies in the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands and University of Queensland, Australia, also another examiner, said that the thesis ‘presents an original perspective on the theme and rightfully claims that the right to self-determination in the light of justpeace has been insufficiently researched’ and that the author’s ‘extensive professional experience in North East India allows for unique account of an unrepresented peoples’ struggle’. She also recognized the originality of the thesis and encouraged the author to publish the document as well as write a book on the subject.
Akum’s extensive work in the field of Peace and Conflict Transformation and his contribution to the literatures in this field through this thesis has brought the ‘Naga Story’ to the global academic discourse. As Prof Lederach mentioned ‘in the wider arena of “case studies” in the field dominated by Northern Irelands, South Africas, and Palistine-Israel cases, this thesis offers a first-hand, interview-based, and ethnographic contribution to a much less known case of Naga’. His hard work in this field leading to his achievement of a ‘Doctor of philosophy’ and his tireless efforts towards peace and reconciliation amongst the Nagas deserves support and appreciation from all of us. I wish him the very best for his future endeavors.