Over the last twenty years, my research has focused on the ways in which business can foster peace. This work isn’t really about how trade and economic development can foster peace, but how the actions of the structures that implement trade and economic development – businesses – can do so. In addition to writing four books and a number of articles, I’ve led two Business Fights Poverty challenges on the topic (2009 and 2016). There are two key ideas in this work, which with the research of hundreds of other scholars, has now bloomed into its own discipline.
First, not just any kind of business conduct fosters peace; ethical business conduct fosters peace. That’s because anthropologically researched attributes of relatively peaceful societies map very well onto commonly proposed ethical business practices. Just as an individual’s decision to recycle makes an incremental contribution to environmental responsibility so to does ethical business conduct incrementally contribute to peace.
Second, while governments have the major responsibility to settling disputes without warfare, there are ways that other actors and sectors can lay the groundwork for social harmony. Business is one of those actors and sectors.
More recently, I expanded this idea to consider how other sectors play harmonizing roles as well. These include music, sports, and film for starters. Of course, there is a long tradition of “cultural diplomacy” whether it is Richard Nixon sending a U.S. table tennis team to China to open relations between the two countries or a tour of a symphony. With colleagues from the Jacobs School of Music, Business Fights Poverty hosted a four-month program on how music, business, and other cultural forces can foster peace.
It’s with this background in mind that I offer the first of an ongoing set of columns on movies that feature these cultural foundations. Film itself, of course, is one of those cultural artifacts in its own right. It also can capture contributions from sports, music, and business. Here at Indiana University, I run a peace film series with six films being shown to date with another six on the schedule for next academic year. Once a month, I’d like to share the experience of the film and invite your thoughts about it. I’d also welcome your sharing of ideas for additional films. Generally speaking, I like to focus on the positive contributions that these cultural artifacts can provide. There are plenty of negative portrayals of a variety of things these days and, without being polyannish, I’d like to counter some of that negative with positive messages. The risk of such an approach, of course, is being uncritical and so I do think a balance of critical and positive portrayals is worthwhile.
The first film I’ll be talking about next month is the documentary, Sweet Dreams, which is the story of post-genocide Rwanda women finding a way to heal from the wounds of war by using music (forming a drumming troupe) and business (creating their own ice cream shop).
See you at the movies next month!