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Article

Narrative Approaches to Understanding and Responding to Conflict

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