Impressions from the peaceful university

Greetings from Japan! I spent three days last week at the 6th International Academic Identities Conference at the University of Hiroshima. The theme was The Peaceful University: aspirations for academic futures – compassion, generosity, imagination, and creation. 


This post offers impressions of the conference, its location, the theme and the presentations. The theme was described as follows:

Peace is a concept that invites us to imagine, restore, create, construct and interact. It is not only the absence of violence, but something more sustainable and empathetic (Galtung 1996). Peace building can take place at different levels and often starts to bear fruit only after years of everyday care, which must continue even after seeing the fruits. This conference starts with an invitation: how can we envision a ‘peaceful’ future higher education and academic identities? What are we aspiring after as dwellers of the university and how are we going about it?

The location in Hiroshima, site of the first atom bomb attack in 1945, challenged the definition of peace. Conference organiser Machi Sato, Associate Professor in the Research Institute for Higher Education at Hiroshima University, defined peace as a process of having difficult conversations and collectively imagining a better future. I took some photographs of the atomic bomb (Genbaku) dome, the only structure left standing at the bomb site, which has been carefully preserved as a memorial.

Presenters at the conference did not shy away from asking critical questions about compassion, generosity, imagination, and creation in university contexts. As with most conferences, I missed more sessions than I was able to attend. This was compounded by presenting too many papers myself, something I hope to guard against in future. Those sessions I did attend were thought-provoking, discomforting, enjoyable and challenging.

The keynote speakers ranged across complex ideas.

I have presented ideas from the keynotes in tweets because I use Twitter as a condensed form of note-taking. You can see the Twitter discussion at #ACIDC18.

  1. Professor Emeritus Takashi Hata, Hiroshima University & Tohoku University,
    Issues with Identities of Japanese Academic Professions – Who are they?

2. Dr Swee Lin Ho, National University of Singapore, Asian Universities’ Pursuit of World-Class Status and the Social Cost of Ignoring Difference and Diversity Among Academics

3. Professor Bruce Macfarlane, University of Bristol, Restoring the freedom of students to learn in the peaceful university

Here is a taster of some of the presentations I enjoyed, which will be the subject of future posts:

  • Pushing Academic Identity Development Further: imagination, creativity and ensoulment (Susan Carter, University of Auckland)
  • (Un)becoming academics: stripping down and laying bare, to story spaces of hope (Ali Black & Gail Crimmins, University of the Sunshine Coast; Linda Henderson, Monash University & Janice Jones, University of Southern Queensland)
  • The Art of Generous Scholarship and the Japanese Tea Ceremony (Sally Knowles, Edith Cowan University & Barbara Grant, The University of Auckland)
  • Academics ageing (dis)gracefully: pleasures and pains (Claire Aitchison, University of South Australia; Cally Guerin, University of Adelaide; Anthony Paré, University of British Columbia & Helen Benzie, University of South Australia)

You can also watch a 20 minute video on the history of the conference on YouTube. Here is a short trailer:

8 thoughts on “Impressions from the peaceful university

  1. Sounds a very interesting and thought-provoking conference.

    So sad about the casualisation stats from Japan.

    Just attended a conference in Lisbon and met two Finnish academics whose presentation focused on their university’s policy of supporting and encouraging the teaching staff as this is believed to overflow into better educational outcomes for students. What an enlightened and progressive approach!

    Louise K


  2. I can’t imagine a less peaceful place (outside actual war zones) than the university at the moment. I spoke to a survivor of FIVE restructures the other day. Academic identity is under attack on several fronts.

    The Finnish approach mentioned above leaves me even more appalled about my own university, which is instructing staff NOT TO PUBLISH in medium-impact education journals, and in one faculty, punishes them for doing so (by removing salary loading). So all of those academics who are not actually IN the department of education and who apply a scholarly approach and research and reflect on and enhance their own practice are getting the message that this scholarship in learning and teaching practice in their disciplines is not worth doing, not of value, a waste of time, and “lets your colleagues down” (because it “dilutes” the value of their “real” research publications. All because most disciplinary educational practice journals aren’t “top ranking” “high impact” research journals.

    There will be no peace in my life until this insane system is torn to pieces.


  3. Pingback: Getting meta at #ACID18: Presenting a cultural history of a conference to that very same conference community – Conference Inference

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