Peacebuilding and Book as Mirrors, Windows as Doors


In the fourth episode of our CUSP Podcast series, Prof. Evelyn Arizpe, Dr Giovanna Fassetta and Dr Julie MacAdam joined Prof. Alison Phipps for a discussion on peacebuilding in relation to the work they do as educators, researchers, and members of their communities. 

In the contexts in which Evelyn, Giovanna and Julie have worked and are working, especially the Gaza Strip and Mexico, physical violence occurs on a daily basis. Gaza is a context of protracted conflict with an ongoing blockade and recurrent military aggressions; and in Mexico, gender-based violence is acute, in particular the incidence of feminicidio (Castañeda Selgado, 2016). Evelyn, Giovanna, and Julie work in the School of Education (University of Glasgow) and they use different creative methods in their research, with a particular interest in books and literature to build peace in these contexts. 

What do books and literature have to do with peacebuilding?  

The phrase ‘Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors’ was coined by Sims Bishop (1990) to describe how children see themselves in books, and why it is important that they can find themselves represented in books and that they can relate to others’ experiences. Literature may not be the solution to a protracted conflict, but it may change our attitudes towards how we perceive difference, building empathy and community (Bishop, 1990).  

Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.  

(Bishop, 1990) 

(Thanks Julie, for sharing the powerful work of Sims Bishop during the podcast episode!). 

Building a culture(s) for inclusive and sustainable peace, at the community level, perhaps means to focus on the acts of everyday solidarity and care, small acts but constant and multiple. As Evelyn and Giovanna also mentioned during the podcast – these acts increase non-violent options to conflict. That is, as Evelyn highlighted, we are often exposed to media narratives that ‘take us to more violent solutions’ but perhaps we can choose which door to close and which door to open – and offer different doors to walk through.  

Peacebuilding is multifaceted, there is not only single way to undertake the journey.  

In this podcast, Julie, Evelyn and Giovanna talked about multiliteracies, multilingualism, multimodality, a multiplicity of perspectives, multiculturality – multiple sources can spark our imagination. With our work we try to understand what these multiple sources in local contexts are. Peacebuilding is therefore contextualised, shaped relationally, and built step-by-step and day-by-day, not only with our neighbours and immediate community, but with a wider community of people.   

 As educators, we can promote inclusivity and peace, perhaps starting with the classroom context and then going beyond it, in a perspective that highlights plentifulness and positive relations.  


Bishop S. 1990. Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors  

Castañeda Selgado M.P. 2016. Feminicide in Mexico: an approach through academic, activist and artistic work. Current Sociology. 64(7): 1054-1070. 


Additional Resources on Books 

2021 Ibby Selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities. 


The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).