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Article

Responsibility and Peace Activism: Lessons from the Balkans

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 2 2014
Keywords Responsibility, peace activism, non-violence, conflict, dynamical systems, Balkans, Levinas
Authors Borislava Manojlovic
AbstractAuthor's information

    Background: The notion of responsibility for peace in this article is examined through the analysis of stories told by seven peace activists that have chosen to promote peace in the midst of the violent 1990s conflicts in the Balkans by resisting or rejecting violence. Purpose: This study aims to explore what it means to perform responsible action (i.e. why certain individuals choose peace in the midst of conflict, despite danger and risk for themselves), and what makes their peace activities successful. Methodology: The research is based on seven in-depth semi-structured interviews. By means of dynamical systems theory and Levinas’ concept of responsibility, this study traces the positive attractor dynamics within individual narratives of these peace activists, which includes actions or thinking that produce peaceful outcomes in conflict systems. Findings: The findings suggest that inquiry and openness towards the Other rooted in care and responsibility can serve as a positive attractor in a conflict system. Successful peace activities are enabled through learning from past mistakes and creation of inclusive and diverse spaces for interaction in which historical narratives can be expanded and non-violent strategies can be embraced. Originality/value: This study contributes to the body of knowledge on how change leading to peaceful outcomes can be introduced in conflict systems through peace activism and how we can deal with the current and future violent conflicts more constructively. It also helps to bridge the gap between practice of and research on conflict resolution by giving voice to the practitioners and eliciting lessons from the ground.


Borislava Manojlovic
Borislava Manojlovic, PhD, is the director of research projects and professor at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University, USA. Her email address is: borislava.manojlovic@shu.edu.
Article

Reflexivity and the State of Success and Failure in Our Field

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 1 2014
Keywords reflexive, conflict engagement, success, failure, learning
Authors Jay Rothman
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this piece, I contrast success and failure in creative conflict engagement as related continua on a scale of relevance. Not always is success a good thing (for example, if goals are pedestrian or wildly unrealistic) nor is failure a bad thing (if we or the parties gain useful insights from it). Indeed, I suggest that the very effort to wrestle with these concepts is in itself a reflexive value and practice that will help our field become more robust and interesting. Moreover, I suggest by being reflexive about such questions, we will be developing a new petite theory-in-use (as opposed to a more ambitious and unrealistic grand theory) for our field.


Jay Rothman
Associate Professor in the Conflict Management, Resolution and Negotiation Program, Bar-Ilan University.
Article

Lessons from the Frontiers of Failure

Second-Order Social Learning and Conflict Resolution

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 1 2014
Keywords conflict resolution, social learning, intractability, failure, adaptation
Authors Oliver Ramsbotham
AbstractAuthor's information

    From the beginning, second order social learning has been at the heart of conflict resolution. Learning from failure was seen by the founders of the field to be essential for individuals and social groups if they were to adapt and survive in a constantly changing environment. This article traces the origins of this concept within the field and then applies it to the field itself. How well has conflict resolution responded to failure during its 60 year development? Where are the ‘frontiers of failure’ today? The article ends with an example of adaptation to failure drawn from my own work on what can be done in the communicative sphere when, so far, conflict resolution does not work.


Oliver Ramsbotham
Emeritus Professor of Conflict Resolution, University of Bradford
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