Conference Program

What’s going on at Build Peace 2022? Find out about our core themes and all the conference sessions & speakers. The conference will take place on November 4 – 6, 2022 in Chemnitz, Germany.

Exploring the Unseen

Exploring the unseen is about dealing with the less-visible sides of the digital and physical societal space, which are often overlooked through the emergence of dominant narratives amidst conflict. This exploration cannot happen without an active questioning of power: Unseen by who? By what structures? By what individuals? Exploring the unseen, similarly, cannot happen without a recognition of where the unseen thrives: Where is transformation happening where others might not be looking? How is movement forming outside of dominant narratives? What relationships are harnessing new and innovative power?

Our online and offline realities cannot be divorced from each other — we can look at them together to understand what unites us, what divides us, and how in between the cracks of those answers, there are existing formations that offer us tools to build both relationships and our capacity to respond to each other peacefully. To do this effectively, we need to understand lies below the surface, together. What are the unseen or previously silenced perspectives, stories, people and places that need attention, and what are the environments impacting their histories of (in)visibility?

We invite you to explore these questions around three sub-themes, through your personal experiences, your stories and methods of what has and has not worked, and your curiosities and questions.

Turning Points

How do we as individuals and as a society process profound social, economic, or technological shifts? These moments, or as we can call them, turning points, often have a side subjected to invisibility. After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the first elections and the joy of families being able to reunite across a divided country earned a lot of attention. Simultaneously, the economic takeover by West German elites in places like Chemnitz has not been covered enough.

This theme examines the unseen before, during, and after turning points. How do these points feed division? How can they be revisited or reimagined to open new opportunities for societies to come together and create moments of accountability and healing? How can the arts, storytelling, memorializing, oral history, biography, and celebration be utilized to surface what has been hidden?

Participants will explore experiences related to social, economic, and political turning points in Chemnitz and globally, the current transition to a post-pandemic reality worldwide, and examples of turning points in the different countries of origin of participants.

Supremacy and Polarization

Physical and structural violence targeting specific groups or individuals – like the violent events in Chemnitz in 2018 – are often the visible tip of the societal iceberg. Racism and white supremacy are embedded in histories of violence while also tying themselves to other identity and geography-based systems of control.

This theme explores the unseen dynamics of supremacy and how they impact the way humans are able to connect within and between societal groups. How does affective polarization intersect with supremacy, and what drives polarization between individuals or within institutions? Where and how do related stereotypes, norms and attitudes emerge, and what role does history play in this? Which online and offline strategies actually work to address polarization and why? In the German context, there is much debate about the so-called “silent middle” – an assumed majority of society that does not speak despite calls to show up before, during, and after moments of violence.

Participants are invited to engage with these issues, and to explore what works to challenge and dismantle society’s multiple modes of supremacy effectively, while thinking about how to move and motivate their respective “silent middles”.

Connecting Spaces

Where do we come together as individuals to shape a peaceful society  – where we do not just meet each other, but build lasting trust and responsibility towards one another? The spaces where our relationships are built  are often hidden – they may be the sports club where people who usually do not interact build connections over time through play or the online forum where nuanced debate across lines of separation becomes possible. How can we create and enable such spaces intentionally to be in relationship with each other? Recognizing our shared humanity, including that of perpetrators of hate and violence, without compromising key values is a puzzle for peacebuilding work internationally, and in Chemnitz. How can people be brought together in a way that is both peaceful and non-neutral?

This theme explores the spaces in which interaction across different perceived dividing lines is possible – across the democratic political spectrum, between the geographic center and the periphery, across generations, and across nomenclatures of victims and perpetrators. Additionally, it looks at the unseen ways that allow people to feel heard and connected within the micro-communities that form around us daily through building closer relationships.

Participants will share examples where they have  used different methods to create spaces that surface the unseen aspects of what it takes to meaningfully connect.

Detailed Conference Program

Find out what speakers and sessions will make up Build Peace 2022.