Bemidji State University professor receives Fulbright research grant

BEMIDJI, Minn. — Dr. Kit Christensen, professor of philosophy at Bemidji State University, has been awarded a Fulbright Research Grant for 2009-10 to serve as a guest scholar at the Center of Peace Studies on the campus of the University of Tromsø, Norway.

Christensen will be in residence at the world’s northernmost university from Feb.-May, 2010. There, he will serve as a guest scholar while undergoing an intensified program of research and writing on the subject of revenge as an obstacle to social conflict resolution.

Throughout his professional career, Christensen has taken a keen interest in the possibility for progressive social and political change. However, in order to determine the viability of a more egalitarian, mutually respectful, caring and nonviolent society, an understanding of the natural human tendancies which are often thought to block such progress need to be better understood.

The attractiveness of vengeance in response to a perceived harm has long been acknowledged throughout history as a powerful motivational force. Its use in attempted conflict resolution has regularly undermined social peace and security. Christensen believes philosophers can contribute to studies on the desire for revenge through a critical analysis of value judgements regarding both principles of conduct and standards of moral character. These analyses can add significantly to humanity’s knowledge of this natural phenomenon; to respond to it.

Christensen penned a forthcoming textbook entitled “Nonviolence, Peace and Justice: A Philosophical Introduction,” which includes a section on revenge, retribution and reconciliation. His Fulbright research grant will allow him to pursue the issues approached in that section in more depth.

His research will investigate what has previously been researched on peace and conflict resolution topics such as “truth and reconciliation” commissions; the relationships between revenge, punishment, law and the role of the state; and the moral psychology of forgiveness and vengeance. However, his work will particularly emphasize the connection between calls for revenge and warmaking in the contemporary world and in earlier eras.

“Our beliefs guide our actions,” Christensen said in his project statement. “Having as much knowledge and understanding as possible is certainly desireable in attempting to maximize peace and minimize injurious conflict in complex social environments, even though there will always be some difference in theory and practice.”

Christensen’s interest in the University of Tromsø, and its Center for Peace Studies, stems from Christensen’s visit to the school in May 2008 to follow up on the exchange relationship recently established between it and Bemidji State University.

Christensen has been on the faculty at Bemidji State University for nearly three decades. Since joining the University in 1981, he has taught more than a dozen different courses including Introduction to Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Business Ethics, Philosophies of Nonviolence, Logic and Aesthetics. He has also participated in the interdisciplinary team-taught courses Science, Values and Society; and Global Peace and Justice Issues.

He also taught at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis in 1980 and at Moorhead State University from 1980-81. He was a guest professor at the University of Iceland in spring 2003 and fall 2006 and at Aalborg University in Denmark in the falls of 2004 and 2005.

Christensen, who earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and sociology at Moorhead State University in 1976, holds a doctorate of philosophy from Purdue.

Christensen is the first Bemidji State faculty member to receive a Fulbright Research Grant since 2000-01, when the University had two such honorees. That year, Dr. Louise Jackson received a grant to study psychology in Estonia, while Dr. Patricia Rogers studied education in Iceland.

About the Fulbright Program
The Fulbright Program, the U.S. Government’s flagship international exchange program, is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. With this goal as a starting point, the Fulbright Program has provided almost 300,000 participants chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

The Program was established by Congress in 1946 under legislation introduced by then-Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which works with private non-profit organizations in the United States and with U.S. embassies and binational Fulbright Commissions abroad to administer the program. Policy guidelines are established by the Presidentially-appointed J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, which also selects the recipients of Fulbright awards.

Since 1947, the Fulbright Scholar Program has awarded nearly 45,000 grants to support teaching and research in countries around the world. Today it includes active programs in more than 125 countries.