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Article

Experimenting with Conflicts Constructively

In Search of Identity for the Field of Conflict Resolution

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 2 2013
Keywords conflict resolution, identity, group identity, constructive engagement, narratives
Authors Michal Alberstein
AbstractAuthor's information

    The field of conflict resolution has developed enough to become diverse and rich with perspectives, yet the common ground between those perspectives – a permanent core essence – has not yet been defined. The use of identity theory, specifically intergroup identity theory, may be the most effective method to understand the field’s foundations. In this article, six possible group identity claims – or grand narratives – are offered. Together, they may form a foundational code for the field, which may be examined and proved in context. Defining the profession of conflict resolution also requires engagement and dialogue with other related professions. In addition to mapping the six grand narratives, this article will suggest how these narratives can at times generate differences with other academic disciplines that deal with conflicts.


Michal Alberstein
Bar-Ilan University, Program in Conflict Management, Resolution and Negotiation.
Article

Reflections on the Field of Conflict Resolution

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 2 2013
Keywords peacebuilding field, culture and conflict resolution, power and conflict resolution, future trends in peacebuilding, critique of peacebuilding
Authors Mohammed Abu-Nimer
AbstractAuthor's information

    Compared with other disciplines in the social sciences, conflict resolution is a relatively new, emerging professional and academic field. Many developments have shaped the current reality and boundaries of the field. This article is an attempt to provide a set of reflections on the major issues, challenges and possible future directions facing the field of conflict resolution. By narrating my own personal and professional journey, I hope to capture certain aspects and perspectives of this field. This is not a comprehensive review or ‘scientific’ charting of the field, nevertheless it attempts to shed light on areas and concepts that are otherwise taken for granted or neglected when the mapping of the field is done through more extensive empirical research. This mapping of conflict resolution after 30 years of practice, teaching and research first involves reflections on the conceptual or so-called theoretical groundings of the field. Second, it examines the various professional practices that have branched out through the last few decades. Third, it identifies some of the current limitations and challenges facing conflict resolution practitioners and scholars in their struggle to position the field in relation to current global realities. The final section discusses possible future directions to address existing gaps and refocus the research agenda of the field.


Mohammed Abu-Nimer
American University, International Peace and Conflict Resolution. E-mail: abunimer@american.edu. Special thanks to Timothy Seidel who reviewed, edited, and made critical comments on this manuscript. Also I am grateful to colleagues in the peace and conflict resolution programs who shared their insights and reflections in the process of writing this essay.

    Bernie Mayer is a central figure in conflict engagement. He is a founding partner at one of the pioneering firms in the field, CDR Associates, which became internationally recognized for work in a wide array of conflicts – interpersonal, family, workplace, environmental, governmental and international. A leading practitioner and scholar in the field, Mayer is a prolific author, and teaches at the Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at Creighton University and Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He has worked across the globe as a mediator, facilitator, teacher, trainer, dispute systems designer and programme administrator.
    In this interview, conducted by IJCER’s Managing Editor, Nofit Amir, Mayer speaks of some central tensions he sees in the field: between optimism and realism, conflict engagement and avoidance, mediation and ally roles. In addition, he urges conflict scholars and practitioners to widen the focus of the field.
    This interview is the first in a series of interviews that will appear in IJCER.

Article

Conflict Resolution as a Profession and the Need for Communities of Inquiry

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 1 2013
Keywords Reflective practice, conflict resolution, professional education, community of inquiry, expertise
Authors Tamra Pearson d’Estrée
AbstractAuthor's information

    Conflict resolution has obtained the markings of a profession, including published journals, professional associations and academic programs. However, professional status also carries with it expectations and obligations upon which conflict resolution as a community should deliberate. Acknowledging conflict resolution as a profession highlights associated responsibilities around knowledge accumulation and ethical practice. Complexities of modern practice call for reuniting theory, research and practice, and updating our professional educational paradigm. Competent modern conflict resolution professionals must be able to innovate and adapt to novel and complex contexts, and must develop communities of inquiry for learning that is public, shared and cumulative. Because of the time constraints facing many professionals, and the lack of structure for reflection, a combination of direct community conversation and periodic journal review would likely be the most realistic for nurturing the needed reflection, continual learning and paradigm critique that results in system learning by the community of conflict resolution professionals.


Tamra Pearson d’Estrée
Henry R. Luce Professor of Conflict Resolution in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and Co-Director, Conflict Resolution Institute, University of Denver.
Article

Does Our Field Have a Centre?

Thoughts from the Academy

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 1 2013
Keywords Conflict and Peace studies, peacebuilding, pedagogy, George Mason University, S-CAR
Authors Kevin Avruch
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article is a personal reflection on the development of the field of conflict resolution/peace and conflict studies from the perspective of the classroom: how what is thought necessary to teach has changed as the field has grown and reacted to often turbulent political change


Kevin Avruch
Henry Hart Rice Professor of Conflict Resolution & Professor of Anthropology, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. I thank my colleagues Arthur Romano, Richard Rubenstein, and Dennis Sandole for their careful and critical reading of earlier drafts of this essay, and Oliver Ramsbotham for his critical reading of a later one. Their various suggestions greatly improved the work.
Article

The Historical Contingencies of Conflict Resolution

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 1 2013
Keywords History of ADR, consensus building, multi-party dispute resolution, theory development, conflict handling
Authors Carrie Menkel-Meadow
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article reviews the historical contingency of theory and practice in conflict engagement. World War II and the Cold War produced adversarial, distributive, competitive, and scarce resources conceptions of negotiation and conflict resolution, as evidenced by game theory and negotiation practice. More recent and more optimistic theory and practice has focused on party needs and interests and hopes for more party-tailored, contingent, flexible, participatory and more integrative and creative solutions for more than two disputants to a conflict. The current challenges of our present history are explored: continued conflict in both domestic and international settings, the challenge of “scaling up” conflict resolution theory and the problematics of developing universal theory in highly contextualized and diverse sets of conflict sites. The limits of “rationality” in conflict resolution is explored where feelings and ethical, religious and other values may be just as important in conflict engagement and handling.


Carrie Menkel-Meadow
Chancellor’s Professor of Law, University of California Irvine Law School and A.B. Chettle Jr. Professor of Dispute Resolution and Civil Procedure, Georgetown University Law Center.
Article

Is There a Theory of Radical Disagreement?

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 1 2013
Keywords Radical disagreement, linguistic intractability, agonistic dialogue, conflict engagement
Authors Oliver Ramsbotham
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article concerns linguistic intractability, the verbal aspect of those conflicts that so far cannot be settled or transformed. At its heart lies the phenomenon of radical disagreement. This is generally discounted in conflict resolution as positional or adversarial debate. It is seen as a terminus to dialogue that must from the outset be transformed, not learnt from. In this article the refusal to take radical disagreement seriously is traced back to the way radical disagreement is described and explained in the third party theories that frame attempts at settlement and resolution in the first place.
    On pp. 58-60 a theory of radical disagreement is contrasted with an example. In the theory radical disagreement is described as a juxtaposition of equivalent subjective narratives that do not ‘reflect truth’ but merely serve as ‘motivational tools’ for group survival. In the example, it can be seen that neither speaker is saying that. The Palestinian claim (A) is not about a subjective narrative or motivational tool, but about a lived reality endured for 60 years. And the Israeli claim (B) is not about a juxtaposition of equivalent accounts, but a fierce refutation of faults and misrepresentations in what the other says. This mismatch between third party theory and participant example explains a great deal about why third party interventions based on those theoretical assumptions fail.
    The rest of the article looks at a range of putative theories invoked in conflict analysis and conflict resolution. This is a search for third party descriptions and explanations that are adequate to examples of what they purport to describe and explain. Surprisingly the net is hauled in empty. The interim conclusion to this article is that there is no adequate theory of radical disagreement.
    In the first issue of the International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, this article sets the scene for an exploration of the relationship between engagement and resolution that it is hoped will be developed in future issues. It will be argued there that the practical implication of the discovery that there is no adequate theory of radical disagreement is that in intractable conflicts it is a mistake to ignore this phenomenon. Radical disagreement is not all too familiar but perhaps the least familiar feature of intense political conflict. What is required in the face of linguistic intractability, therefore, is not less radical disagreement but more – namely promotion of a ‘strategic engagement of discourses’. Only then is it possible to move from engagement to resolution and to create the space for a future revival of attempts at settlement and transformation in the linguistic sphere.


Oliver Ramsbotham
Emeritus Professor of Conflict Resolution, University of Bradford. Paper first presented at the Conflict Research Society Annual Conference, Coventry, September 2012.

Michal Alberstein
Michal Alberstein is head of the Conflict Management, Resolution and Negotiation Program, Bar-Ilan University.

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

Crises and Opportunities:

Six Contemporary Challenges for Increasing Probabilities for Sustainable Peace

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 1 2013
Keywords Conflict resolution, peace, evidence-based practice, gender, systems
Authors Peter T. Coleman
AbstractAuthor's information

    The news from the field of peace and conflict studies is mixed. It is evident that the increasing complexity, interdependence and technological sophistication of conflict, violence and war today introduce many new challenges to peace-keeping, making and building. However, it is also likely that these trends present new opportunities for fostering and sustaining peace. If our field is to capitalize on such prospects, it will need to more effectively understand and address several basic dilemmas inherent to how we approach our work. This paper outlines six contemporary challenges, and suggests some options for addressing them.


Peter T. Coleman
Director of International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution and Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College and The Earth Institute at Columbia University.
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