Understanding Peace & Violence from the Perspective of Street-Living Adolescents in Cusco, Peru
Young people often tend to be depicted either as a risk factor or passive victim. Few youth have the possibilities to actively take part in decision-making processes affecting their lives. However, researchers increasingly criticize this oversimplified view of young people and stress the significance of involving them in social transformation processes. A first step to do so is to consider young people’s interpretation and assessment of the world. Thus, the present research project aims at giving voice to a certain group of young people we hardly hear, namely street-living adolescents in Cusco, Peru, regarding two particular social issues: peace and violence. How do these adolescents conceptualize ‘peace’ and ‘violence’? To find answers to this proposition, individual semi-structured interviews were conducted in combination with the creation of drawings. The empirical findings revealed a three-folded peace concept, which can be systemized as ‘Three Dimensions of Peace.’ The street adolescents regard peace not just as the opposite of war or other types of overt violence. Their understanding combines elements that might be ascribed to either ‘typically’ occidental or oriental ideas about peace. As a result, the ‘Three Dimensions of Peace’ as understood by the youths complement existing peace theories. Previous research regarding young people’s conception of violence and peace frequently made use of the cognitive-developmental approach. This study’s interest, however, is chiefly centered on the individual’s relation with the sociocultural environment and its affect on ideas about peace and violence. In accordance with the socialization and ecological perspectives, it can be argued that the youth’s understanding of these concepts is influenced by their interactions with the immediate surroundings and by the wider sociocultural setting. Therefore, this research project additionally explores the street youths’ conceptualizations in relation to their specific cultural background and social reality. So as to collect information about their socialcultural context, supplementary interviews were carried out with adults who are experienced in working directly with the street adolescents. Due to the relation between the youths’ social knowledge and their particular social experiences and interactions with their immediate and wider surroundings, the three-folded peace concept gives an idea about the Cusquenian adolescents’ perspective of changes that have to be undertaken in their environment in order to improve their own lives but also to achieve a greater level of peacefulness for the whole Peruvian society.
adolescents, conceptualization of peace, violence, street children, social knowledge, sociocultural environment, Cusco, Peru, peacebuilding