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Faculty Spotlight

Andrea Stanton, Department of Religious Studies

Dr. Andrea StantonAssistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and an Affiliate Faculty with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Denver, Dr. Andrea Stanton focuses on the history of the modern Middle East and Islam as well as the intersection of media and politics. She holds her BA with a double major in religion and history from Williams College, and her MA and PhD in Middle Eastern history from Columbia University. Her first book, “This is Jerusalem Calling: State Radio in Mandate Palestine,” was published in 2013.

Dr. Stanton’s interest in conflict resolution began when she saw issues inherent to the field appear organically in her work, especially given her focus on the modern Middle East. Such issues include dynamics between colonizer/colonized, occupier/occupied, religious majority/minority, ethnic majority/minority, wealthy/poor, and powerful/disenfranchised. Exposed to the broader interpersonal conflicts found in the Middle Eastern context from her time living in Beirut and Damascus, Dr. Stanton observed how local people interacted, “Whether hot or cold, these would play out on the ground level, in terms of casual comments made about people of different backgrounds, geographic self-segregation etc.”

These dynamics intersect with history to create views of intractable conflict, which purport that a certain group has been fighting another group for time immemorial, placing the struggle into an abyss of history, which will continue indefinitely. This viewpoint is often combined with the idea that ethnic or religious identities add to intractability. A prime example is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where many observers would simplify the historical and conflict narrative to Muslims and Christians, Muslims and Jews in a never-ending struggle.

Dr. Stanton believes this is an unhelpful way to cast history’s role in conflict. Instead of being used as a rationale for intractability, history can act as a “profoundly effective way to counter these ‘external conflict’ statements. Unpacking the historical evidence around specific conflicts helps defuse the notion of permanent, religious conflict.” Having moved beyond a religious definition of conflict, other factors that may be contributing to conflict dynamics, such as politics, economics or environment, can be examined. Furthermore, automatically framing conflicts as religious and hence external, “serves extremists, who want more conflict and less compromise.” History can thus act as a reframing tool for bringing conflict analysis from a one-dimensional to a multidimensional lens.

Along with Dr. Gregory Robbins, Dr. Stanton serves as an affiliate faculty member to the Conflict Resolution program from the Department of Religious Studies. She has acted as a resource for students and collaborated with the Conflict Resolution Institute (CRI) on a number of events, including a 2013 workshop on peace-building which was funded by a grant from the United States Institute of Peace. Recently, she took part in a winter 2015 talk on Lebanon co-sponsored by CRI and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies with scholar George Irani, and was one of the Institute’s faculty-in-residence for Fall 2014, an experience she describes as “wonderful and enriching.”

In the future, Dr. Stanton would like to grow in her involvement with the Conflict Resolution Institute by working more directly with students-- serving on thesis committees, having Conflict Resolution students in her courses, directing independent studies, and including Conflict Resolution students in the Department of Religious Studies’ events with visiting scholars. For students interested in conflict issues in Muslim-majority or Muslim-plurality locations, Dr. Stanton recommends her 3000-level courses Introduction to Islam, Contemporary Islam, or Islamic Fundamentalism.

Dr. Stanton’s advice for Conflict Resolution students is to take advantage of all the resources the University of Denver has to offer: visiting scholars, guest lectures, career services, and the tremendous faculty. Being under DU’s Josef Korbel School umbrella gives Conflict Resolution students a doubly rich opportunity to engage with leading scholars and practitioners. Keeping in mind her desire to be more directly involved with Conflict Resolution students, Dr. Stanton notes that “even faculty with whom students don’t have the opportunity to study with in a formal course may be willing to offer feedback on a thesis draft, or suggest opportunities for summer study, professional connections, etc.” For graduates, keep in mind these connections and opportunities do not end after graduation. Dr. Stanton reminds students, “don’t forget to check back in every year or so!”

Dr. Stanton can be contacted at andrea.stanton@du.edu.

--Rachel DiFebbo