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Article

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

Leaning towards the “Soft Side of Revolution”

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 2 2016
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.
Article

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

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 2 2016
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).
Article

Security Sector Reform in Theory and Practice

Persistent Challenges and Linkages to Conflict Transformation

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 1 2016
Keywords security sector reform, conflict transformation, scholarship, practice
Authors Leslie MacColman
AbstractAuthor's information

    In less than two decades, security sector reform (SSR) has crystallized as an organizing framework guiding international engagement in countries affected by violent conflict. SSR is a normative proposition, grounded in democratic governance and human security, and a concrete set of practices. As such, it represents an exemplary case of the dialectic between scholarship and practice and an outstanding vantage point from which to interrogate this nexus. In this article, I explore the dynamic interplay between theory and practice in SSR. In particular, I show how the basic tenets of conflict transformation – present in the first generation of scholarship on SSR – were sidelined in SSR practices. Practical experiences led to strong critiques of the ‘conceptual-contextual’ divide and, eventually, to a second generation of critical scholarship on SSR that has begun to coalesce. I conclude by noting the parallels between recent scholarship on SSR and the insights captured in earlier work on conflict transformation.


Leslie MacColman
Leslie MacColman is a PhD student in the joint programme in Sociology and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Her research interests include governance, police reform and criminal dynamics in urban neighbourhoods.
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