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Hakån Wiberg (l942-20l0)

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Nigel YOUNG
929Wiberg, H.

 

Hakån Wiberg, a leading European Peace Researcher who died in Copenhagen, was one of
the very best spirits in Global Peace Study since the late l960s. Although a child of l960s peace
activism, Wiberg was both part astonishing auto-didact, a remarkable polymath; but also a
scrupulous, and multilingual scholar with a deep scientific (in its best sense) inclination. Despite
strongly held opinions, his approach was always skeptical, critical – even detached. He was famed
for his riposte to a l980s Peace Movement request for partial “research”: “I do not do studies
that ‘prove that X or Y is true’, that is not the task of peace research”. His greatest intellectual
contribution was perhaps to stand outside the parameters of the Cold War in its last
two decades. Asking “What is East? What is West?” His knowledge of Eastern/Central Europe
led him, from the l970s, to a special focus on South Slav societies, predominantly the “cross-roads”
state of Yugoslavia; its demise in the l990s was of deep and special concern, though he
had long predicted it.
Hakån loved life (perhaps too much) and love – and being in love; his wisdom, humour humanity
and intuition made him a great social networker, and these skills helped him build up
the International Peace Research Association (IPRA). He was a key figure in the European Peace
Research Association (EUPRA) and Director of the now (defunct) Copenhagen Peace Research
Institute (COPRI): he was a leading figure in Nordic peace studies, but his reputation was somewhat
overshadowed by the North Americans, such as the Bouldings and Anatol Rapoport,
and his fellow Scandinavian, Johan Galtung and younger researchers.
But his contribution was immense.
For 33 years he was on the editorial board of the Journal of Peace Research and played key
roles in Peace Programmes in Lund, Oslo and Dubrovnik. But above all he was the only person I
have known who had memorized the whole of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, his favourite
poem, from which he would frequently intone appropriate passages, even in academic
seminars. For example the Bellman’s prounouncement:
“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators, / Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
/ So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply / “They are merely conventional
signs!”
This passage reflects his engagingly humourous and critical appraisal of all the received paradigms
and frameworks, but also his keen awareness that peace research had yet to evolve
(despite the emergence of a Copenhagen School of International Relations), truly effective alternatives
of its own.


Nigel Young
(Editor-in-Chief: Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace, OUP, NY & Oxford, 20l0)

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