Dr. James M. Skelly is Director of the Centre on Critical Thinking, which he founded, and has been a faculty member at the Köszeg Campus of the University of Pannonia (2012-2018), as well as a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Köszeg, in Hungary, where he has received New Central Europe Fellowships for research on “Identity and Citizenship.” This work builds on his previous research as a TAMOP Fellow in 2012 for research on a new conceptual basis for identity. The research work informs his recently published book, The Sarcophagus of Identity: Tribalism, Nationalism, and the Transcendence of the Self.
Dr. Skelly served as the Director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies and Professor of Peace Studies at Juniata College in Pennsylvania from 2012 to 2015. As well as serving as Director, he had been a Senior Fellow of the Baker Institute from 2000 to 2015, as well as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Peace Studies at Juniata between 2000 and 2005. Prior to his return to direct the Baker Institute, he was Visiting Professor of Peace Studies at the Magee Campus of the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland from 2007 – 2012. His academic career also includes service as Associate Director of the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation; New York University’s Center for War, Peace and the News Media; and, the Irish Peace Institute at the University of Limerick in Ireland. In the 1990s, he was also the Academic Coordinator at the European University Center for Peace Studies in Austria; as well as, the European Peace University – Spain, which he helped to create.
Professionally, Dr. Skelly has also been active as: a founder of the Peace Studies Association; Chair of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Peace and War; a Fellow of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society; Senior Fellow at the Center for European Studies in Budapest; a Patron of the European Students’ Forum (AEGEE-Europe) project, “Beyond Europe”; a member of the International Advisory Board of the Institute for Global and European Integration Studies at Corvinus University in Budapest; and, in both the Forum on Education Abroad, and NAFSA-Association of International Educators, where he served as Chair of the Peace and Justice Special Interest Group.
He has held teaching posts and lectured in countries throughout the world, including China, Cuba, Japan, Russia, the United States, and across Europe. In addition, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of International Studies of the University of California, Berkeley, with sponsorship from the MacArthur Foundation for research on the transformation of American political culture during the Cold War. His research and teaching interests continue to be rooted in the sociology of knowledge and focus on reality construction related to identity, international education, nationalism, and various issues related to peace, conflict, and militarism, and has edited and published numerous articles informed by these perspectives.
Dr. Skelly holds an MA and PhD in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego, as well as a BA in Psychology from the University of Minnesota. His intellectual and academic concerns have however been fundamentally stimulated by the fact that he has held several jobs during his working life that allowed him to understand how the non-elites of our world live. He worked as a clerk in a supermarket and a shopping mall in New York, on the docks in Boston and the Port of Los Angeles, and as a bartender in Minneapolis and San Francisco. Following his commission as a US Navy officer he rose to serve as the third in command of a 25,000ton oil tanker with 220 men aboard.
However, with the planned decommissioning of the ship, the USS Elokomin (AO-55), he received orders to serve in Vietnam, but refused and declared conscientious objection, which ultimately led to his federal law suit, Skelly v. Laird, against the United States Secretary of Defense. The legal case which lasted a year, helped to redefine the criteria for in-service conscientious objection. During this period, he worked actively against the war in South East Asia through several groups which he helped to found including the Concerned Officers’ Movement.
Following his honorable discharge from the military, Dr. Skelly worked with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, and other entertainment industry figures, as the advance man and political coordinator for the “FTA” Show which was designed to support U.S. soldiers and sailors in the free expression of their opposition to continuation of the war in South East Asia. He subsequently served in Washington as Executive Director of The G.I. Office, Inc., an organization that had been established to further support military personnel, and then subsequently for two years as a Special Assistant to the U.S. Senator from California, JohnTunney.
Dr. Skelly holds citizenship in Ireland and the United States.