John Paul Lederach honored with Gittler Prize

Photo/Mike Lovett

Provost Lisa Lynch presents John Paul Lederach with the Gittler Prize medal.

Peacebuilder, conflict mediator and scholar John Paul Lederach visited Brandeis this week to be formally presented with the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize.

In his Gittler Prize lecture Wednesday in Rapaporte Treasure Hall, “Dispatches from Nowhere Near the Promised Land: How a Peacebuilder Unlearned his Trade,” Lederach recalled moments from the field in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Tibet that gave him “vocational pause,” and prompted him to ask big questions about himself and the approaches to peacebuilding and mediation.

“Peacebuilding is not primarily a labor of social engineering, it is an artistic process that must, over and again, open up what is known but not seen, and bring into life that which does not yet exist,” he said. “The artist’s soul sits at the center, not the periphery, of social change.”

Known for his development of culturally appropriate approaches to conflict transformation, Lederach has applied his methods in areas of conflict around the world as a mediator, negotiator, trainer and consultant. He is author and editor of 24 books and manuals, including “Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies” and “The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace.”

Photo/Mike Lovett

Lederach speaks with Cynthia Cohen after the Gittler Prize lecture.


Lederach was introduced by Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts Cynthia Cohen, who said Lederach’s personal approach to conflict, peacebuilding and mediation was a key signature of his scholarship.

“John Paul Lederach’s writing is noted for its clarity and vulnerability, for its generativity and for its unabashed challenging of his own earlier assumptions,” she said. “His body of work could be seen as series of accomplishments. Accompanying communities as trainer facilitator, and perhaps most importantly, friend.”

Before his lecture, Lederach was formally presented with the Gittler Prize medal by Provost Lisa Lynch.

“The foundation and enduring expression of his genius are his disciples. The thousands of people whose lives he’s helped transform,” Lynch said. “At the core of which are the hundreds of students and peacebuilders he has mentored by word and example.”

The Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize was created in 2007 by the late Professor Joseph B. Gittler to recognize outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations. It is named after Gittler and his mother, Toby. The Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Endowed Fund at Brandeis University supports this annual award that includes a $25,000 prize and a medal.

The prize is administered by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life on behalf of the Office of the President of Brandeis University. Previous Gittler Prize winners include Beverly Daniel Tatum, Kimberle Crenshaw, Martha Minow, Gustavo Gutiérrez and Patricia Hill Collins '69, PhD '84.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, Research

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