Josie Gardner

USA and Australia, Ph.D. Candidate and Scientia Scholar, International Relations, Specialization in Peace and Conflict, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia 2021

Mapping emergent peace systems through youth-led dialogue in Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh

Josie Gardner

Research Problem & Context

In the context of conflict and rising instability in north-western India, youth are often cast by the Indian media as driving antagonists of unrest and therefore sidelined from peace initiatives and inclusive dialogue. Without the adequate tools to express, articulate and heal anger, pain, and trauma, and without channels through which to safely embody, practice, and advocate for peace and justice, many youth are engaged in ongoing cycles of polarisation. However, youth play an imperative role in creating and sustaining peace and social cohesion in the region and are under-acknowledged for their engagement in creative peacebuilding and nonviolent resistance. There is an urgent need for young people to form alternative spaces of socio-political participation, healing, dialogue, and action towards peace and cohesion.

For youth peace leadership to be effective, we must craft holistic approaches that honour both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ peacebuilding. Despite the nearly exclusive focus on ‘outer’ peace in research and practice, it is often the elements of ‘inner’ peace and violence that shape the conflict landscape, from unhealed trauma to interpersonal relationships to crises of belonging. This project draws together inner (psycho-spiritual) and outer (socio-political) peace, seeing these two realms to makeup a ‘peace system.’

In this project, we aim to conceptually ‘map’ existing peace systems through youth-led intergroup dialogue and relational transformation across polarised identity lines. We will particularly focus on the way in which emergent peace systems might be fostered through the formation of ‘transcendent identities’ as the connective identities that supplement rather than replace group identity. Through this, we aim to explore the notion of inner unity with outer diversity, noting that outer peace cannot be sustained without a foundation of inner transformation as an equally political as well as spiritual process. This approach offers new perspectives and pathways to peace beyond standard tactics of opposition and resistance, which have often fuelled further violence in north-western India.


Josie Gardner is an innovator, idealist, optimist, and unorthodox thinker who is passionate about bridging divides through creative dialogue, inner healing, and grassroots peace work. Currently, she is a PhD candidate and Scientia Scholar at the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia. Her research investigates emergent peace systems within violent contexts in India through trauma-informed reconciliation and psycho-spiritual healing. She is most interested in the link between ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ peace and how inner-outer peace systems emerge in contexts of violence and polarisation. She is passionate about anti-colonial, youth-led peacebuilding, finding young people to be some of the most inspiring changemakers and best teachers. Prior to her PhD research, Josie co-founded Muralisto, a community arts and development social enterprise in Sydney, as well as a sustainable micro-credit development project in partnership with HIV+ widows in Tanzania. She has also worked in human rights roles at both Amnesty International Australia to the Australian Journal of Human Rights, and has led many community action research projects, with a focus on vulnerable populations. Outside of academia, Josie is involved in psycho-spiritual healing and self-transformation work grounded in an earth-honouring ethos, with practices including rites of passage, ceremony, community healing, and peace circles.

The Foundation acknowledges that Josie Gardner has successfully completed her project.