UMass Conference on Intergroup Conflict:

Bridging Social Psychology & Peace Perspectives 

June 17 - June 20, 2010


Conference participants


Dynamics of Intractable Conflict

Peter T. Coleman (Columbia University, USA), Robin Vallacher (Florida Atlantic University, USA), Andrzej Nowak (University of Warsaw, Poland)

 Decades of research on social conflict have contributed to our understanding of a wide variety of psychological, social, and community-based aspects of intractable conflict.

However, the field has yet to put forth a theoretical model that links these many components to the basic underlying structures and dynamics that account for intractability and transformation. This chapter presents a dynamical-systems approach to addressing intractable conflict. We propose that it is particularly useful to conceptualize ongoing, destructive patterns of conflict as strong attractors: a particular form of self-organization of multiple elements of conflict systems. Our dynamical approach to conflict intractability will be outlined, and implications for intervention discussed.

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Destructive Ideologies

J. Christopher Cohrs (Queen's University, Belfast)

The chapter will give an overview of (social and political psychological) research on ideology and the role ideology plays as a source and catalyst of violent conflict. The dominant approach to ideology defines ideology as a coherent set of political cognitions, attitudes, and feelings maintained by an individual, referring to the proper order of society and how it can be achieved (e.g., Jost, Federico & Napier, 2009). Much research in this tradition has focused on the question whether ideology can be conceived of as one-dimensional (i.e. conservatism vs. liberalism) or needs to be considered two dimensional (e.g., cultural and economic conservatism vs. liberalism).

Empirical evidence for both positions will be briefly reviewed. Research following this approach contributes to the understanding of violent conflict by revealing individual-level correlates of the general dimension(s) of ideology with conflict-related attitudes such as support for capital punishment, military intervention etc. Empirical studies investigating these correlates will be reviewed.

A second approach will be introduced which also specifies general dimensions of ideology. However, this approach is more theoretically based and builds more explicitly on the definition of ideology as a set of beliefs about the proper order of society, or visions of the ideal arrangement of society. Following cultural theory (Douglas, 1966) and Schwartz's (2006) theory of cultural values, it assumes that all societies face three fundamental questions: (1) what is the appropriate relationship between the person and society?; (2) what is the appropriate way to guarantee that tasks necessary for society are fulfilled?; and (3) what is the appropriate relationship of society to its natural and social environment?

Three dimensions of ideal societal arrangement (i.e. of ideology) then arise from different preferences in response to these questions: (1) individual autonomy and choice vs. social embeddedness and conformity; (2) prescription of fixed roles vs. equal status and absence of constraining classifications; and (3) mastery and exploitation vs. harmonious adaptation. It will be shown that various individual-level constructs such as authoritarianism, nationalism, social dominance orientation, and militarism can be mapped onto these three dimensions.

A third approach considers the role of ideology for violent conflict more directly within an overarching framework of conflict analysis, again adopting the definition of ideology as visions of the ideal arrangement of society (e.g., Staub, 1999; Staub & Bar-Tal, 2003). In this tradition, ideologies are understood as more specific and contextualised belief systems which define enemies that impede the attainment of the desired society and which justify discrimination and violence towards the enemies. Certain economic, political, social and cultural conditions are assumed to facilitate the emergence of such specific ideologies in particular contexts. Empirical research following this approach will be reviewed. Taking insights from these approaches to ideology together, it will be suggested that certain cultural dimensions of ideology at the collective level (which may predispose societies to be more or less violent or peaceful) form the background against which individuals develop broad ideologies about how society should be arranged, which in turn facilitate the development of more specific ideological belief systems such as enemy images. These specific ideologies then play an important role for the justification of discrimination and violence.

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Group Identities

Sonia Roccas (The Open University of Israel) and Andrey Elster (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)

Extensive research documents the relationship of group identification to beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors harmful to intergroup relations. We review research showing the negative impact of group identification on intergroup relations in a large variety of groups.This large body of research shows that people who strongly identify with their group tend to endorse more strongly aggressive policies, are less critical to the ingroup's wrongdoings, and are less responsive to interventions designed to reduce conflict.The link between group identification and intergroup conflicts, however, does not work only in one way.

We focus on three factors that mitigate the negative impact of identification on intergroup conflict: multiple modes of identification, multiple identities, and multiple contents First, researchers from different theoretical perspectives conceptualize identification in a variety of ways, such as centrality to the self or perceived superiority of the group. Integrating the different perspectives we review modes of identification, underscoring those modes that have the potential to reduce intergroup conflict. Second, the social identity is a complex web of partially overlapping group identities that transcend the national and ethnic identities usually involved in intergroup conflicts. We review research from multiple perspectives showing how awareness of one's multiple identities mitigates reactions to intergroup conflicts. Finally, we discuss recent research on the content of national and ethnic identities. Highly identified individuals can act very differently depending on the way in which they construe the content of their ethnical or national identity. People may think of their group as a perpetual victim, as being an entity that spans over generations or as being a chosen people. We review studies on the content of identities focusing on aspects that may mitigate conflict.

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Historical Memories

Rezarta Bilali (University of Massachusetts Boston, USA) and Michael A. Ross (University of Waterloo, Canada)

Philosopher George Santayana is probably best known today for his aphorism, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Variations of this quote appear frequently when countries, ethnic groups, or individuals engage in conflicts over economic, legal, or territorial issues. In these disputes, it is always the “other guys” who ignore or abuse history. The version of history provided by one’s own side is a true account of the past that legitimizes the ingroup’s beliefs and actions. In the current chapter, we examine bases of conflicting narratives of the past.

We document how individual- and group-level factors (e.g., needs, goals, motives) lead to divergent perspectives, and assess the role of societal and conflict characteristics in shaping historical memories. One important characteristic of historical memories is their persistence over time. We examine the avenues through which historical memories are transmitted and maintained across generations. The second part of the chapter will address the role of historical memories in resolving and exacerbating conflicts. We show that a focus on the past can sometimes promote reconciliation and help groups to avoid the repetition of past mistakes, as the Santayana quote implies. We also show the dark side of historical memories. A focus on the past sometimes helps to perpetuate cycles of hostility and violence, as well as the repetition of past mistakes. In the final section of the chapter, we discuss interventions that are designed to help groups reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of historical memories.

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Retribution and Revenge

Brian Lickel (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)

Intergroup conflicts can have as their basis both disputes over resources as well as the meaning and superiority of each group’s identity. Revenge is an important psychological and cultural element of many intergroup conflicts, particularly intractable violent conflicts. To fully understand the role of retribution and revenge in intergroup conflicts, scholars and practitioners must understand two intertwined sets of processes: psychological processes that are best modeled at the individual level and social processes which may be best modeled at the group level.

The goal of this paper is to describe an overview of these two sets of processes and the causal connections between them. Important variables and processes at the individual level include ingroup identification and motivational factors (particularly the role of different emotions including anger, but also fear, pride, envy, contempt, and schadenfreude) as well as construals of the event and the ingroup (its strength, victimhood, morality, humanity) and the outgroup (including its entitativity, threat, immorality, inhumanity).

One important point about these psychological processes is that motivational factors are likely to shape construals about the ingroup and outgroup in ways that serve to justify and promote retribution and revenge. These psychological processes operate in a social context that is influenced by the intergroup conflict and which may strongly affect the individual psychological processes. Furthermore, the process of moving to retribution in an intergroup context generally requires some form of collective action and therefore is best analyzed at a broader level than just the individual. Thus, understanding these social/group level processes is extremely important. Group level processes include threat driven affiliation and meaning-making, norms and social influence, group decision-making, as well as intragroup status and leadership processes. I’ll provide a sketch of the operation of these psychological and group processes, and discuss data from several studies including recent data from Serbia and Bosnia on predictors of support for group-based aggression.

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Delegitimization and Justification of Violence

Daniel Bar-Tal (Tel Aviv University, Israel) and Phillip L. Hammack (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA)

In this chapter we would like to focus on one of the key socio- psychological mechanisms that leads individuals and groups engage in acts that intentionally harm others, including discrimination, exploitation, oppression, physical violence, ethnic cleansing, and even genocide. It plays a major role in intense, vicious, violent and prolonged intergroup conflicts that legitimizes and allows the involved group members to carry the most immoral acts. We realize that this is not the only socio- psychological mechanism that underlies the malevolent and immoral acts. Social psychology elucidated also such mechanisms as conformism, obedience or de-individuation.

But there is no doubt that delegitimization stands as the salient master mechanism that frees human beings from their normative and moral restrains and justifies the most evil behaviors. Delegitimization refers to a process of extremely negative stereotyping and a specific case of outgroup categorization characterized by denial of the outgroup’s humanity. Specifically, delegitimization is defined as categorization of a group or groups into extremely negative social categories that exclude it or them from the sphere of human groups that act within the limits of acceptable norms and/or values, since these groups are viewed as violating basic human norms or values. That is, delegitimization implies inclusion of the delegitimized group in categories that are completely rejected by the norms and/or values of the delegitimizing society.

While many groups are negatively stereotyped or experience prejudice, they may continue to be considered as part of the society (for example, Americans of Mexican origin in the United States, or Jews in France). Delegitimization, in contrast, indicates that the delegitimized group should be outside the boundaries of the commonly accepted groups, and thus should be excluded from the society as a legitimate member worthy of basic civil and human rights or should be barred from the international community as a group that deserves human treatment.

Therefore, it is so important to elucidate its nature and uses not only by the performers of evil acts but it is crucial especially to reveal its uses by leaders, and its appearance in the public discourse as in cultural and educational products which disseminate and impart it to society members who then widely share it and then consequently practice its implications.In the present chapter, we first define the nature of delegitimization and delineate its scope and implications. Second, we describe its roots and evolvement. Third, we posit primary functions for delegitimization in its role in social reproduction. Fourth, we outline the various consequences of delegitimization for collectives, with a focus on conflict, violence, and genocide. Finally, we outline potential strategies to reduce delegitimization, focusing on collective structural strategies.

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Collective Victimization

Johanna Ray Vollhardt (Clark University, USA)

This presentation will provide a review and conceptual integration of the emerging body of literature on consequences of collective victimization for intergroup relations. I will discuss social psychological processes through which collective victimization exacerbates conflict; and, in contrast, how it can be transformed to promote peace and constructive intergroup relations. Scholars of peace and conflict have noted that historical victimization is a barrier to the resolution of intractable conflicts (Bar-Tal et al., 2009; Rouhana & Bar-Tal, 1998).

I will also argue that responses to collective victimization can only be fully understood when the context is taken into account (e.g., ongoing conflict vs. historical victimization; group narratives; acknowledgment vs. denial; relations with the ‘enemy’ group vs. unrelated groups; groups that were only victims vs. groups that have also become perpetrators). I will discuss these conceptual differences that need to be considered in order to design effective interventions in the aftermath of collective victimization.

Narratives and reminders of past ingroup victimization give rise to intense emotions that can stimulate revenge (Ramanathapillai, 2006); and they serve to legitimize harmdoing against enemies in a current conflict (Antebi & Bar-Tal, 1992; Maoz & Eidelson, 2007; Wohl & Branscombe, 2008). “Competitive victimhood” predicts less willingness to reconcile with members of the other party in a conflict (Noor et al., 2008a; b).

However, collective victimization can also result in solidarity with and prosocial behavior toward other victim groups (Staub & Vollhardt, 20008; Vollhardt, 2009a; Vollhardt & Tropp, in preparation). I will attempt to integrate these two perspectives, outlining the underlying social psychological processes of “inclusive” and “exclusive” victim beliefs (Vollhardt, 2009b) by drawing on social psychological constructs and theories such as common ingroup identity, superordinate categorization, construal level theory, social comparison theories, and theories of prosocial behavior to explain and predict divergent responses to collective victimhood.

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Toward A Paradigm Shift In Conflict Resolution: Structural Violence and Power Asymmetry in Intergroup Conflict

Nadim Rouhana (The Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA)

Nadim Rouhana is currently a Professor of International Negotiation and Conflict Studies at the Fletcher School, Former Henry Hart Rice Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University; visiting teaching roles held at Harvard University, Najah National University and The University of Massachusetts at Boston; and the founding Director of Mada al-Carmel: Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Haifa, Israel.

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Social Harmony versus Social Change? Majority and Minority Perspectives on Common Identity

Jack Dovidio (Yale University, USA)

The effects of positive intergroup contact for improving intergroup attitudes are impressively and extensively documented. Beyond demonstrating the robustness of these effects, recently research has focused on identifying key factors that influence the effectiveness of contact and on the psychological processes that underlie the influence of contact on reduced prejudice.

For instance, intergroup contact is more effective for improving the attitudes of majority-group members toward minorities than for creating more favorable attitudes among minority-group members toward majorities. With respect to mechanisms, research on the Common Ingroup Identity Model has demonstrated that intergroup contact is effective, in part, because it alters the way members perceive the groups, from two groups to one more inclusive group. The current presentation discusses fundamental ways in which majority and minority group members approach intergroup contact, have different goals (e.g. social stability vs. social change), adopt different strategies (e.g., assimilation vs. pluralism), and have different perceptions of intergroup contact and experience different outcomes. Moreover, this work suggests that more positive intergroup /attitudes/ alone may not be sufficient to produce /action/ for social change, and that a focus solely on common identity may reduce motivations for social change among members of both majority and minority groups. Implications of the research for diverse forms of intergroup relations, such as between members of host countries and immigrants and majority and minority groups within societies, are considered. The presentation concludes by examining implications for future research and social policy.

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Intergroup Contact

Uli Wagner (Philipps University Marburg, Germany) and Miles Hewstone (Oxford University, UK)

Uli Wagner in photo

Intergroup conflict results from real or perceived negative interdependence of groups (Deutsch, 1949). Intergroup contact has been proven to help reduce the negative consequences of intergroup conflict in form of negative intergroup attitudes (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006) and behaviour. This holds true for both direct and extended contact. Scholars tend to differentiate intergroup conflicts into different periods as, e.g., previolence-, violence-, and post-violence phases. For contact theory, this implies that one has to consider pre-violence contact effects on the pre-violence course of the intergroup conflict, the violence phase as well the post-violence period of the conflict.

Similarly, one can ask the question how contact during the violence phase might influence intensity and quality of violence as well the process of reconciliation in the post-violence phase. And finally, one can focus on post-violence contact effects on post-violence intergroup interaction.

Intergroup contact, at least in its direct form, is facilitated if the groups involved have opportunities to meet, i.e. live in physical proximity to each other (Wagner, Christ, Pettigrew, Stellmacher & Wolf, 2006). International conflict research, however, delivers examples that show that living close together in the same geographical region and thereby having the opportunity to come into contact with outgroup members does not always prevent members of groups in conflict from intergroup prejudice, discrimination and brutal violence (Hewstone, Tausch, Voci, Kenworthy, Huges, & Cairns, 2008).

Therefore, contact theory has to give an answer to the question what conditions make physical closeness of in- and outgroup members helpful to reduce negative consequences of intergroup conflict and what circumstances make physical closeness increase intergroup tension. Allport (1954) proposed that authorities’ support would moderate the effects of intergroup conflict. Adopting this idea, we assume that values and ingroup norms concerning intergroup behaviour are an important moderator of intergroup contact. They can influence both the content and strength of perceived negative interdependence. In addition and more important in the context of intergroup contact, values and ingroup norms can moderate the effect of physical closeness on the readiness for contact as well as the conduct and perception of intergroup interactions.

At the Amherst conference, we will present a model and first empirical evidence describing the effects of intergroup proximity on escalation of conflict and the moderating effect of ideologies and norms. Based on different survey data first analyses are presented that test the influence of physical closeness as well as ideologies and ingroup norms on the escalation of conflict and the mediating role of intergroup contact for this process.

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Intergroup Dialogue: Engaging Difference, Understanding Conflict, Building Transformative Capacity

Biren (Ratnesh) A. Nagda (University of Washington, USA), Patricia Gurin, Anna Yeakley and Nicholas Sorensen (University of Michigan, USA)

Biren Nagda in photo

Building on and extending the tradition of intergroup contact, intergroup dialogue seeks to engage participants from diverse backgrounds to explore, understand and transform intergroup conflicts. Participants meet in sustained, facilitated, face-to-face interactions with an explicit purpose of grounding their learning and conversations in issues of conflict.

Recent research in intergroup contact speaks to the challenges of contact (Richeson & Shelton, 2007), especially when issues of identity and power are not engaged (Saguy, Dovidio & Pratto, 2008.). Intergroup dialogue takes a conflict transformation approach rather than conflict management or resolution. “Engaging in conflict means accepting the challenges of a conflict, whatever its type or stage of development may be, with courage and wisdom and without automatically assuming that resolution is an appropriate goal.” (Mayer, 2000, p. 184).

 In this presentation, we will describe the theoretical and practical foundations of intergroup dialogue, and present data from multi-university research project investigating the processes and outcomes of intergroup dialogue. Intergroup dialogue practice is based on a four-stage model that emphasizes dialogic relationship building and critical analysisaction. The beginning stage of the dialogue lays the groundwork for conflict exploration by building community. Later, participants examine their own social identities and intergroup relationships in the context of power and privilege before moving into exploring conflictual social issues (such as immigration, gender violence, and others).

The dialogues end with applications of learning to intervening in conflict situations and promoting change. Differences in perspectives, disagreements on issues and conflicts in values surface throughout the dialogue. Facilitators guide and encourage participants to engage these divergences as entry ways to expanded understanding of intergroup inequalities and strengthening intergroup relations in the dialogue group.

Nagda’s (2006) theoretical model of intergroup dialogue posited that pedagogical processes in intergroup dialogue—facilitated informational and interactional learning—set in motion a unique set of communication processes that in turn foster different learning outcomes, such as skills in dealing with conflict. In this presentation, we seek to explain how students develop skills in dealing with conflict by focusing on the pedagogical and communication processes in intergroup dialogue.

We will report results drawing from an experimental field study, with students randomized into intergroup dialogues and a control group. In total, we conducted 26 race experiments and 26 gender experiments. We used a multi-methods approach to discern the specific mechanisms by which the intergroup dialogue results in increased competencies for working with conflict. We use survey data in which students were asked to rate the frequency of and contributions of four communication processes—learning about others, engaging self, critical reflection and alliance building--to their learning about inequalities. We also coded students’ final papers for understanding how they conceptualized learning to work with conflict

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Anti-bias Programming

Elizabeth Levy Paluck (Princeton University, USA)

Social psychological theories of bias and bias reduction typically begin from an individual or interpersonal perspective. Various theories place different emphases on cognitive, affective, and motivational determinants of bias and biased behavior. Theories also recommend different strategies for reducing individual, group, or environmental bias (i.e., bias in a workplace or school).
Theories of bias in peace psychology begin from similar perspectives, and are often distinguished by their incorporation of societal and structural explanations for bias. Peace psychology theories often outline the role played by political and social elites in encouraging and channeling bias. In this presentation, I review anti-bias programming that has emerged from these various theoretical perspectives, and what we have learned from decades of research on the design and execution of these programs. I identify programs rooted in conceptions of individual, interpersonal, and structural sources of bias. I also examine programs that involve various combinations of these perspectives.

What works to reduce real-world antagonisms and conflict? A survey of the evidence indicates that accumulated knowledge of causal impact is thin, and much more theoretically driven intervention research is required. Social psychological research programs have generated many causal hypotheses in the lab; peace psychology research offers rich explanation of processes and relationships to be considered in real world settings. A Lewinian research program that brings together not just researchers and practitioners, but also social and peace psychologists, would greatly advance the cause of understanding how to reduce bias and prejudice in the world.

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Interactive Problem-Solving Approaches

Tamra Pearson d’Estrée (University of Denver, USA)

The additional insights to understanding intergroup conflict provided by psychology and peace research lead natural to the search for new solutions. These insights can be applied to generate new approaches that provide alternatives both to coercive methods and to traditional formal diplomacy. Interactive problem-solving approaches are unofficial, offthe- record, face-to-face meetings between typically influential members of adversarial groups, where a third party facilitates the participants working through a structured agenda for analyzing their conflict, testing assumptions, and generating new insights and policy options.

These approaches assume that in addition to classic search for resources and power, intergroup conflicts stem from unmet needs for identity, recognition, autonomy and security. In addition to the role of collective needs and fears, these conflicts are escalated by destructive interaction patterns, and through mechanisms of socialization these destructive interaction patterns and enemy images are diffused throughout the societies involved. Leaders must speak to multiple audiences simultaneously, making intergroup communication fraught with ambiguity and risk, and leaders seeking options lack opportunities for clear communication or reality checking with their perceived adversaries. Interactive problem-solving approaches seek to foster a more constructive kind of communication where problems are approached jointly, participants seek to analyze their conflict relationship, and to understand the concerns and constraints on all sides.

This chapter begins with a discussion of how problem-solving approaches build on a more extensive understanding of intergroup conflict involving psychological and social psychological dynamics. It will trace the assumptions of the problem-solving model, and the development of interactive problem-solving as a technique for intergroup conflict intervention. Aspects of the approach will be summarized, including the participants, structure, agenda, timing and timeframe, and the role and activities of the third party. This will be followed by an exploration of the theoretical support for the techniques used, as well as research and evaluation that have critiqued, expanded and modified the original model and its variations. Included as well are several examples of where problem-solving approaches have been applied. The chapter concludes with a discussion of new applications and practice modifications, including hybridization with other intergroup conflict interventions, and applications to settings beyond intercommunal conflict.

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Apology and Reparation

Aarti Iyer (University of Queensland, Australia;) and Craig Blatz (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)

Aarti Iyer in photo

In the aftermath of intergroup transgression, many assume that political apologies and reparations for historical injustices promote peace and help resolve conflict. Others propose that offering such redress elicits a negative reaction amongst the perpetrator group. Justice and cognitive consistency theories predict that perpetrator group members will evaluate an apology or reparations offer more favorably once it is made compared to before.

A few studies find that across many contexts, perpetrator (and victim) group members indicate more positive attitudes towards the redress after it was offered compared to before. However, the way the apologizer frames their apology may critically influence how the perpetrator group reacts to the offer. In a study of Australians’ reactions to their governments 2008 apology to indigenous populations, when the apology emphasized that the perpetrator group was racist or reflected the perpetrator group’s abilities to overcome harsh realities, members of the perpetrator group responded with increased emotional prejudice against the victim group, perhaps as a way to justify the transgression and maintain an image of their group as moral and good. The prejudiced emotions in turn predicted support for three government policies that harmed Indigenous Australians. Thus, the evidence is mixed. In some ways political apologies led perpetrator group members to indicate more reconciliatory attitudes, yet certain framings of the apology led to more prejudiced responses.

We propose that perpetrator group members want to redress past harms to restore the moral balance and sense of justice in their group and society. But if the redress forces the perpetrator group to accept negative evaluations of their identity, they will respond with emotional prejudice and diminished interest in subsequent efforts to increase equality. We discuss implications of this research for the support for subsequent redress efforts (e.g., reparations) and for how the victim group responds to the atonement effort.

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Social Psychological Processes in Intergroup Reconciliation

Arie Nadler and Nurit Shnabel  (Tel-Aviv University, Israel) 

Arie Nadler in photo

The talk will begin with a consideration of the concept of reconciliation as used in the research literatures on interpersonal and intergroup conflicts. It will consider the differences between "reconciliation" and other concepts that had been used in the research literature on conflict, and the different dimensions of this concept in past research and theory.

It will be suggested that the different dimensions of reconciliation are subsumed in the distinction between Instrumental reconciliation and Socio-emotional reconciliation. Instrumental reconciliation consists of ameliorating intergroup conflict by effecting change in the relations between the parties through an increase in trust and more positive perceptions of the other. Socio-emotional reconciliation consists of ameliorating intergroup conflict by disarming the threats to each of the parties’ identities which emanate from the past of conflict during which the parties had inflicted pain and humiliation on their adversary.

Following these definitions and distinctions the talk will turn to describe research on Socio-emotional reconciliation that was conducted within the framework of the Need Based Model of reconciliation. The model proposes that the nature of the threats to the parties' identities is different for the victim and the perpetrator. Perpetrators are said to experience a threat to their moral image because of their responsibility for conflict-related moral transgressions and victims are said to experience powerlessness that is associated with their victimhood. Unilateral actions to ameliorate these threats to identity (e.g., revenge) are likely to intensify conflict. Socio-emotional reconciliation consists of an interactive amelioration of these threats. A prototypical example is the apology-forgiveness cycle where the perpetrator apologizes and the victim reciprocates by granting forgiveness. This process of social exchange is encapsulated in the Need Based Model of Reconciliation. The implications of this analysis for the amelioration of conflicts of direct violence and structural violence will be considered.

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Intervention and Implementation

Daniel J. Christie (Ohio State University, USA) and Winnifred R. Louis (University of Queensland, Australia)

Winnifred R. Louis in photo

A wide range of intervention strategies for reducing conflict and preventing violence have been developed. We discuss these intervention strategies within the context of a multilevel model that integrates negative and positive peace processes: negative peace initiatives aimed at reducing episodes of violence, and positive peace initiatives designed to create a more equitable social order that meets the basic needs and rights of all people.

We examine three negative peace interventions that are contingent upon the current state of the relationship between individuals or groups. When the relationship is predominantly conflictual, conflict management strategies are typically used to prevent an episode of violence. When the relationship is predominantly violent, de-escalation strategies are implicated. Finally, in the post-violence phase, interventions typically emphasize reconciliation, collective action to build equitable political and economic structures, and processes for envisioning an interdependent future. Repeated cycles of violence may occur if effective negative peace interventions are not implemented.

In regard to positive peace, we describe how relationships (whether in a conflictual, violent, or post-violent state) occur within a structural and cultural context replete with power asymmetries and symbolic processes, where inter-subjectivities, collective narratives, and norms operate. Positive peace interventions involve structural and cultural transformations within and across individuals and institutions that rectify structural inequalities. A multi-level model of intervention combines reactive interventions (negative peace) with proactive interventions (positive peace) at the interpersonal, intergroup, and international units of analysis. Such an approach recognizes that violent episodes have structural and cultural roots, and suggests that sustainable peace will require not only the removal of proximal causes of violent episodes but also interventions that address the structural and cultural roots of violence.

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Preventing Mass Violence

Ervin Staub (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)

To prevent mass violence, group and individual psychology, culture, and institutions/structures all must be addressed. One important source of violence is group conflict, another is difficult social conditions in society. These may frustrate material needs; they frustrate universal, basic psychological needs. They give rise to psychological and social processes, such as people turning to groups for identity, scapegoating, and destructive ideologies.

Extreme violence is the result of an evolution, in the course of which individuals and groups progressively change. This process is more likely with groups that have certain characteristics. While the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Rwanda will be important examples in the talk, the focus in this chapter will be early prevention, once the conditions that give rise to violence can be identified, and as they evolve.

    • One aspect of prevention is constructively addressing difficult life conditions, and the psychological reactions they create. Creating a sense of community that includes everyone and a constructive vision/ideology that points to a shared future for everyone are especially important.
    • Another aspect of prevention is developing more positive orientation toward the other, in place of historical devaluation and dehumanization. Leaders and the media humanizing the other group in words, significant contact across group lines both In the population and leaders, persistent dialogue that includes a focus on people’s feelings and developing trust are all important.
    • Past victimization and woundednesss is an important contributor to violence by groups against others—and to the difficulty in resolving conflict. Helping groups heal, through constructive forms of commemoration, engagement with painful experience in a supportive context, and in other ways, can help prevent violence. So can awareness of the culture maintaining woundedness and shaping perceptions of events.
    • Building constructive institutions is essential to maintain and foster positive change: an effective and equal justice system, schools that treat children belonging to different groups equally and promote positive relations between them, police and military that maintain security.
    • Understanding the influences that lead to violence, and that can help prevent violence, has a variety of benefits in prevention—as the work of my associates and I shows in Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo.
    • While reconciliation between hostile groups can help prevent violence, it is essential after violence to prevent new violence. Some requirements for reconciliation are healing, truth, justice, creating collective memories that do not blame the other— and to the extent possible, shared histories.
    • Political conditions and processes in a country make prevention easier or more difficult.

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Building Sustainable Peace

Kevin P. Clements (University of Otago, New Zealand)

The building of sustainable peace (pre and post conflict) requires a radical re-conceptualization of violent conflict, harmony and peace. Starting with concepts of negative and positive peace, this chapter will critique state centric, UN concepts of peace building which stress state and multilateral action aimed at guaranteeing security, strengthening weak states, disarming warring parties, decommissioning and destroying weapons, repatriating refugees etc and what can be thought of as “political reconciliation”.

It will focus attention on the roles of non state actors (at multiple levels) acting (in concert with state actors) to build healthy social relationships in strong and resilient communities. In order to achieve these objectives individual actors and change oriented movements need to have a solid economic base and some vision of the sort of community they wish to realize. Something like Martin Luther King’s vision of a “beloved community” seems like a good starting point. Such a vision is based on a rejection of the logic of dominance, which is the dominant logic of most political systems, and replaces it with a logic of relationship. The logic of relationship is reinforced by modern neuroscience and challenges the competitive individualist assumptions which underpin many un-peaceful states.

The prospects for sustainable peace in political systems that are grossly unequal, inaccessible and remote are low. The “beloved community” concept, however, is a much better prospect. It requires sustainable development and political systems which are participatory and transparent. It also demands active citizenship and a radical commitment to egalitarian communities (See Wilkinson and Picket, 2009). Focusing on the formation of a “beloved community “ as a means for building sustainable peace means paying attention to institutions that can guarantee security and welfare (economic well being), educational institutions that are capable of enlarging empathetic and altruistic capacities and a justice system that sees justice in Joseph Fletcher’s terms as “love distributed”.

In this ideal, justice is aimed at the restoration of relationship and the building of community and less oriented to revenge and punishment. In post conflict environments where individuals and collectivities have experienced significant trauma, community institutions and processes need to be developed to deal with what Judy Atkinson (2006) calls “trauma trails”. Individuals and communities, together, have to walk, relive and respond to these trails so that they can restore functional relationships and overcome the paralyzing consequences of violence. This is an essential element in generating both a beloved community and sustainable peace.

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Concluding Remarks

Herbert Kelman (Harvard University, USA) 

Linda Tropp and Herbert Kelman in photo


Thursday, June 17, 2010 - 10:00