June 6, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 17

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    Scholar works to find new ways to resolve international conflicts

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    Jailey Philpot

    Every year, Chicago students, both undergraduate and graduate, garner many of the awards in the most prestigious and competitive grant, scholarship and fellowship programs offered nationally and internationally. The awards vary monetarily, but all support and foster advanced study and research across a broad range of disciplines.

    One such fellowship, the Peace Scholar Dissertation fellowship, awarded annually by the United States Institute of Peace, was given this year to Jailey Philpot, a doctoral student in anthropology.

    Philpot is one of 10 graduate students nationwide who will receive the $17,000 fellowship. It will provide support for completion of her dissertation “Peace Under Fire: Protestantism, Human Rights and Civil Society in Post-War Guatemala.”

    Philpot is the ninth Chicago student to win the Peace Scholarship, which is awarded to students whose work is related to the peaceful resolution of an international conflict. The University is one of two institutions that have garnered the majority of Peace Scholar awards in the program’s 14-year history.

    “I’m very proud of Jailey. It’s an extremely well-deserved award for a first-rate intellectual achievement,” said Philpot’s adviser John Comaroff, the Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in Anthropology and the College, who believes his student’s work is especially timely. “The world is undergoing profound shifts, profound changes in religion, profound changes in the global economic structure,” Comaroff said. “Her work shows how these changes are affecting people across the planet on a very immediate level.”

    A native of Plymouth, Mich., Philpot said of the award: “It’s a real honor. Of course, the financial support is great, but it’s also rewarding to know that the Institute of Peace feels my work is important and valuable.”

    A frequent visitor to Central America throughout the 1990s, Philpot’s research focuses on the aftermath of the 1996 peace accords in Guatemala. The accords were not a panacea. Even after the agreement, which halted the Central American country’s 36-year civil war, Philpot discovered nagging problems, such as high levels of crime and poverty. “It was clear that the peace process just wasn’t working as planned,” Philpot said.

    For the past two years, Philpot’s research in the village of Nebaj, in the western highlands of Guatemala, has explored the problems of implementing a peace agreement that is built on global concepts of peace and justice. The problem is a “global/local disjuncture,” she said, which stems from a lack of understanding of the region’s cultural and religious beliefs, as well as local history. She also has focused on a growing popularity of evangelical Christianity among Guatemalans, who traditionally have practiced Catholicism.

    Philpot hopes her findings will inform the architects of future peace agreements and non-governmental organizations that, she believes, need to be more sensitive to the impact of their efforts.

    Named in honor of former U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, the Peace Scholar fellowships further a congressional mandate to support research, education and training about peace and conflict in the international arena.