International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution

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Issue 2, 2016 Expand all abstracts

Sara Cobb
Dr. Sara Cobb is the Drucie French Cumbie Chair at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University. She is also the Director of the Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution at S-CAR that provides a hub for scholarship on narrative approaches to conflict analysis and resolution. Dr. Cobb is widely published and a leader in narrative approaches to conflict resolution.

A Case Study of a Narrative Restorative Conference

Keywords restorative conference, restorative justice, narrative practice, case study, community of care
Authors John Winslade
AbstractAuthor's information

    The overall purpose of a restorative conference is to address the conflict implied in the committing of an offence. The conference convenes a community of care around the offence and invites participants to take up responsibility for addressing the situation. Through a case study drawn from a role-played scenario, this article shows how a restorative conference process in a school might be performed, after an offence has taken place. A transcribed role play is used here to illustrate a narrative practice in the facilitation of restorative conferences. This practice has been written about before, but here, the dialogue is made prominent, while around the dialogue, a commentary aims to make clear the purposes behind what is said.

John Winslade
Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling, College of Education, California State University San Bernardino: 5500 University Parkway, San Bernardino, CA, 92407, USA. Email:; Tel. +1 909 327 8217.

Narrative Approaches to Understanding and Responding to Conflict

Keywords narrative, conflict resolution, development, assessment, evaluation
Authors Sarah Federman
AbstractAuthor's information

    While stories have circulated for millennia and constitute the very fabric of life in society, narrative as an optic for understanding and engaging with conflict emerged in the field of conflict resolution only in the past few decades, and has already amassed an array of significant contributions (Bar-Tal and Salomon, 2006; Cobb, 2013; Grigorian and Kaufman, 2007; Kellett, 2001; Lara, 2007; Nelson, 2001; Rotberg, 2006; Winslade and Monk, 2000). They encompass several spheres of action. Narrative analysis provides a means to locate individual and communal meaning in their discourse and to pinpoint conflicts in their world views that threaten their identity and agency. Further, it helps explain how marginalized people remain marginalized. Narrative interventions allow for conflict transformation, helping people to renegotiate their social positions and reclaim lost agency stemming from marginalized positions. Narrative evaluation highlights the flexibility of that model to measure change through a detection of discursive shifts over time. This article provides an overview of narrative approaches to conflict, answering: (a) What is narrative and what is its potential as a tool for understanding and responding to conflict? (b) How might we conduct a narrative analysis of a conflict? (c) From this analysis, how might we then construct narrative interventions and programme evaluations?

Sarah Federman
Sarah Federman is an Assistant Professor at the University of Baltimore in the department of Negotiations and Conflict Management. Federman completed her doctorate at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution where she studied the role of the French National Railways (SNCF) in the Holocaust and the on-going conflict in the United States over whether the company has done enough to make amends. She used narrative and ethnographic methods to construct a narrative landscape of the conflict over time and to better understand the social construction of victim-perpetrator binaries. Federman began this research as a masters student at the American University of Paris.

Snaga Žene: Disrupting Discourses of Victimhood in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Keywords narrative, gender, conflict, violence, victimhood
Authors Jessica M. Smith
AbstractAuthor's information

    As the nature of global violence shifts and conflict becomes increasingly characterized by intrastate violence, theoretical underpinnings of violence and aggression based on Westphalian models have become insufficient. Contemporary warfare is no longer confined to acts of violence between states using large-scale weaponry where non-combatants are rarely at the front lines. Instead, small arms have allowed rebel groups to bring the front lines of conflict to villages, resulting in a much deadlier age of violence against civilians. This shift has led to an increase in attention to the impact of violent conflict on civilians, including a consideration of the gendered experiences of women, men, girls and boys.
    Of particular concern in this article is the way in which a discourse of victimhood, mobilized through international policy and intervention, can further marginalize and disempower women in postwar contexts. Drawing on ethnographic data from fieldwork with women in Bosnia-Herzegovina, this article will highlight the usefulness of a narrative framework for understanding how individuals make sense of violence, and the discursive politics at work in how these experiences are storied. To this end, the article endeavours to expand the theoretical base from which to understand women’s experiences of conflict in order to ensure postwar interventions do not confine women to the role of “victim,” but support a full range of their expression of agency.

Jessica M. Smith
Jessica Smith is a PhD candidate at the School for Conflict Analysis & Resolution at George Mason University. Her research is focused on exploring the intersection of photography, narrative theory, and women’s postwar political agency as a point of inquiry for developing a richer understanding of how to meaningfully engage women in conflict transformation processes. Currently, she is a fellow for the Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution and the Managing Editor of Narrative & Conflict: Explorations in Theory and Practice.

Pondering over “Participation” as an Ethics of Conflict Resolution Practice

Leaning towards the “Soft Side of Revolution”

Keywords participation, structural violence, narrative compression, master-counter narratives
Authors Sara Cobb and Alison Castel
AbstractAuthor's information

    “Participation” has been defined as the engagement of local populations in the design and implementation of peace-building processes in post-conflict settings and it has been presumed to be critically important to sustainable conflict intervention. In this article, we explore this concept, so central to the field of conflict resolution, focusing on a set of problematic assumptions about power and social change that undergird it. As a remedy to these issues, we offer a narrative as a lens on the politics of participation. This lens thickens our description of our own participation as interveners, a reflexive move that is notably missing in most efforts to redress the dark side of “participation” – that it has often been used as a means to upend structural violence, only to contribute to its reproduction. Drawing on the work of Ginwright, specifically his work with black youth in Oakland, CA, we explore participation as a process involving the critical examination of master/counternarratives. By offering a narrative lens on participation, we hope to illuminate a framework for the ethics of conflict resolution practice that enables practitioners to ethically navigate the politics of “participation.”

Sara Cobb
Dr. Sara Cobb is the Drucie French Cumbie Chair at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University. She is also the Director of the Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution at S-CAR that provides a hub for scholarship on narrative approaches to conflict analysis and resolution. Dr. Cobb is widely published and a leader in narrative approaches to conflict resolution.

Alison Castel
Dr. Alison Castel is faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder where she teaches the core curriculum in Peace and Conflict Studies for the International Affairs program and is the Associate Director of the CU in DC internship program. She holds a Ph.D from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University, and is an affiliate of the Center for Narrative and Conflict Resolution at S-CAR.

The Truth of Fiction: Literature as a Source of Insight into Social Conflict and Its Resolution

Keywords literary approaches to conflict resolution, narrative theory, mass movements, social transformation, social injustice
Authors Angelica R. Martinez and Richard E. Rubenstein
AbstractAuthor's information

    The study of literature, although relatively new to the field of peace and conflict studies, has proven to be a valuable way to develop our understanding of violent social conflicts and the possible methods of resolving or transforming them. Literary texts present students of human conflict and conflict resolution with an appreciation of the power of “thick” descriptions of the human experience and the problems with “thin” modes of expression. Narrative and literary works reveal the indelible marks that violence and conflict inscribe on those left in their wake. Examining conflict through literature also grants students access to the ethical and moral dilemmas that people face as they navigate complex and oppressive social systems. A graduate-level course in “Conflict and Literature” taught for the past ten years at George Mason University provides evidence of these uses and suggests the possibility of further pedagogical developments.

Angelica R. Martinez
Angelica R. Martinez is a PhD candidate at George Mason University and the Branch Chief of Policy and Assessment for NATO’s Allied Land Command in Izmir, Turkey. She taught in the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point).

Richard E. Rubenstein
Richard E. Rubenstein is University Professor of Conflict Resolution and Public Affairs at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His most recent book is Resolving Structural Conflicts: How Violent Systems Can Be Transformed (2017).