Peter Locke Talks International Service

Peter Locke talks at Food for Thought

Food for Thought: Critical Thinking About Service Initiatives, kicked off March 6 with a discussion about cultural humility in international service with Peter Locke, lecturer in Public and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and Assistant Director of International Internships (interim) at Princeton. About 20 students joined the Pace Council for Civic Values for the first of what is a monthly discussion series. 

Peter's research interests include humanitarian psychiatry, global mental health, medical humanitarianism, and public health challenges in post-conflict settings. His dissertation fieldwork explored psychosocial support services for poor families living in Sarajevo in the aftermath of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. More recently, he has been leading Princeton students to rural Sierra Leone each summer to study medical humanitarian interventions in collaboration with a small community healthcare organization. Peter advises students earning a certificate in Global Health and Health Policy and teaches courses in global health and the application of qualitative and ethnographic research methods in public policy. He earned his PhD from Princeton's Department of Anthropology in 2009 and was a post-doctoral research associate in the Woodrow Wilson School's Center for Health and Wellbeing.

At Food for Thought, Peter shared insight from his trips to Sierra Leone with Princeton students and gave practical advice about approaching humanitarian efforts as an outsider. He focused on establishing a connection based on honesty about what each party involved was trying to accomplish. Taking an hour of someone's time who is living day-to-day finding food to ask them hard questions about their life circumstance can be hard, he said. Making sure to convey where the information is going is crucial as well as conveying humility that "we don't know what you need" and wanting to learn rather assume what that is, he added. He said it was important to drop the notion that because we come from a technologically advanced Western world, we know what's best in health policy and medicine. It is crucial to always approach service in this way with the mind of a student, always eager to learn more rather than teach, he said. 

After his presentation, students asked questions related to their own service experience and he offered the perspective of an experienced researcher in international health care programming. 

In April, the Pace Council for Civic Values plans to have Kathleen Nolan from the Office of the Dean of the Faculty join Food for Thought as part of a discussion on prison and schools.