Janine Minkler


A dancer stands before the Nazi gas chambers; in a moment of poised defiance, she glides up to the guard, seizes his gun, and shoots him. Lisa Schirch opens Ritual and Symbol in Peacebuilding with this story, dramatically illustrating one of her key points: through the act of ‘‘doing,’’ the doing becomes reality. ‘‘The dancer acts as if she is alive and powerful,’’ Schirch writes, ‘‘and through dancing, she becomes alive and powerful’’ (3). Traditional peacebuilding1 approaches tend to deal with issues directly, linearly, and rationally and, ironically, to reproduce adversarial space by placing conflicting parties in opposition to each other across the negotiating table. Schirch proposes that those working to resolve conflict should instead consider facilitating ‘‘peacebuilding dramas’’—ritual and symbolic acts that engage the senses, passions, and emotions to create a ‘‘unique social space’’ that includes cooperative images and activities.