Engaging Provention: A Pressing Question of Need




Dunn, David J

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School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution


“In three major sections, what follows is unified by the notion of need. The uses of this term are slightly different, but there is a unity throughout. That unity is the life and work of John W. Burton, whose contribution was recognized and celebrated at the conference, held at ‘Point of View’ in April and May of 2011, that preceded this work. Over the course of 40 years my engagement with John Burton followed no consistent pattern. He was one of my teachers when I was an undergraduate student at University College in London, and I was immediately attracted to his way of thinking and his engagement with students. He did not look down on us, but trusted our opinions and urged us to think creatively, and he valued our opinions. We went, necessarily, our separate ways, and after graduate school in the United States and London I embarked on a career teaching International Relations in the United Kingdom. Though I did not encounter Burton for two decades, his work and perspective stayed with me and influenced my own approach to the study and teaching of the subject. When I did re-engage with Burton’s work, it influenced me profoundly, to the extent that I wanted to write a study of its evolution: the importance of it, as far as I was concerned, was such that it needed to be engaged more widely and more significantly (See Dunn, 2004). That purpose is restated here. In the last years of Burton’s life I got to know him well. I visited him often (at least as often as intercontinental travel and work allowed) at his home in Canberra, and we conversed long and frequently. What is striking is that, even as the years advanced, he was driven. He had a routine: breakfast, newspapers and journals, ostensibly a nap, then writing. He rested, but his mind was always active, pushing forward his own thoughts. He was not an angry man, but he was not content either. He was driven by the belief that the way things are are not the way they have to be. (See for example, Burton 2008). He resisted that notion, intellectually and viscerally.”