Janna Hunter-Bowman, PhD, brings experience as a peace and justice worker in a variety of settings to her academic study and teaching roles. She has worked with Witness for Peace in organization and advocacy, and with Justapaz in Colombia in the areas of documentation, education, and advocacy. Immediately after earning a Master of Arts: Peace Studies at AMBS, she entered a PhD program at the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame. There she was the first student to combine the disciplines of theology and peace studies into a single program, an endeavor that found expression in her dissertation, which examined the agency of victims of violence in Colombia’s war zones.
How does the Bible shape your vocation as a professor?
The Apostle Paul wrote about the principalities and powers. Some interpret the powers as social and political structures. As I read them, Anabaptist theologies and histories reveal a threefold eschatological reality about the structures of our world: they are good, they are fallen, and they can be redeemed—simultaneously. This insight results in persistent critique, imparts a call to engagement, and allows for flexible, context-specific reflection on the structures. We can understand the state in particular as simultaneously good, fallen, and possessing the possibility of redemption. As I teach about violence and the possibilities for transformation, I carry forward this three-fold understanding of the state.
What can students expect in your classroom?
I combine small workshops on close readings of the text with writing assignments that require students to practice the skills and techniques that I introduce. We also learn from case studies, guest speakers, film series, and perhaps most importantly, each other. As a diverse, globally connected class, we discover how particular theologies and frameworks strike students from different parts of the world. Through our discussions, we uncover assumptions that are embedded in different models, and learn how to develop context-sensitive approaches to violence and processes for building peace.
How does studying in your discipline prepare students to participate in positive personal, spiritual, and social transformation?
The framework of conflict transformation recognizes and seeks to redress fragmentation on various levels—personal, relational, cultural, and structural. Peace studies provides tools for analyzing various forms of brokenness and intersecting forms of social power, as well as approaches for redressing wrongs.
My goal for students
I am passionate about helping students become critical and constructive scholars and reflective and self-aware practitioners.
I want students to recognize that the answers Christianity offers always need to be in dialogue with concrete situations of injustice and communities that are resisting that injustice and seeking shalom, a just-peace.
I want students to be able to critically assess a situation of violence and the resources of the Christian tradition, and design context-specific approaches that redress violence and contribute to the transformation of injustice.
Book in process: Becoming Agents for Peace Under Duress
“State of Change: Concept Metaphor of Pauline Principalities and Powers for a Political Theology of Peacebuilding,” Political Theology (2019).
“Peace through Participation: Enhancing Post-Accord Peacebuilding Through Linking Stakeholders to Peace Accord Stipulations.” Journal of Peacebuilding and Development 14.1 (2019).
“Theologies of Nonviolent Peacebuilding: Retrospect and Prospect.” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics Vol 38, No 2 (Fall/Winter 2018), 149-169.
“The Opportunity Stanley Hauerwas Missed,” Christianity Today, October 26, 2017.
Dissertation: “Agency Under Duress: A Political Theological Approach to Peacebuilding”
“Theology and Peacebuilding” in Oxford Handbook on Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding, Oxford Press, 2013. (With Heather Dubois)
“Boomerang Violence, A Dangerous Game” in Where was God on September 11?: Seeds of Faith and Hope, Herald Press, 2002. (With Bonnie Klassen.)
“Building Peace: Religious Leadership in Divided Communities” in Religious Leadership, A Reference Handbook, SAGE Publications, Inc, 2013. (With John Paul Lederach)
Memberships and Associations
Teaching and research communities in Elkhart and Colombia