Disarming identities : Ethnic identities in conflict resolution: Hindrance or helpful resource?

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http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-10-5653-6
Title: Disarming identities : Ethnic identities in conflict resolution: Hindrance or helpful resource?
Author: Müller-Klestil, Sebastian
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Psychology
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2009-09-25
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-10-5653-6
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/23520
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (monograph)
Abstract: This thesis proposes that national or ethnic identity is an important and overlooked resource in conflict resolution. Usually ethnic identity is seen both in international relations and in social psychology as something that fuels the conflict. Using grounded theory to analyze data from interactive problem-solving workshops between Palestinians and Israelis a theory about the role of national identity in turning conflict into protracted conflict is developed. Drawing upon research from, among others, social identity theory, just world theory and prejudice it is argued that national identity is a prime candidate to provide the justification of a conflict party’s goals and the dehumanization of the other necessary to make a conflict protracted. It is not the nature of national identity itself that lets it perform this role but rather the ability to mobilize a constituency for social action (see Stürmer, Simon, Loewy, & Jörger, 2003). Reicher & Hopkins (1996) have demonstrated that national identity is constructed by political entrepreneurs to further their cause, even if this construction is not a conscious one. Data from interactive problem-solving workshops suggest that the possibility of conflict resolution is actually seen by participants as a direct threat of annihilation. Understanding the investment necessary to make conflict protracted this reaction seems plausible. The justification for ones actions provided by national identity makes the conflict an integral part of a conflict party’s identity. Conflict resolution, it is argued, is therefore a threat to the very core of the current national identity. This may explain why so many peace agreements have failed to provide the hoped for resolution of conflict. But if national identity is being used in a constructionist way to attain political goals, a political project of conflict resolution, if it is conscious of the constructionist process, needs to develop a national identity that is independent of conflict and therefore able to accommodate conflict resolution. From this understanding it becomes clear why national identity needs to change, i.e. be disarmed, if conflict resolution is to be successful. This process of disarmament is theorized to be similar to the process of creating and sustaining protracted conflict. What shape and function this change should have is explored from the understanding of the role of national identity in supporting conflict. Ideas how track-two diplomacy efforts, such as the interactive problem-solving workshop, could integrate a process by both conflict parties to disarm their respective identities are developed.This thesis proposes that national or ethnic identity is an important and overlooked resource in conflict resolution. Negotiations that focus on the tangible aspects, such as resources, land etc., of a conflict are necessary. They may however run the risk of not being implemented due to a lack of public support. A perceived threat of annihilation by the prospect of conflict resolution may be a reason why a peace agreement fails. Using grounded theory to analyze data from interactive problem-solving workshops between Palestinians and Israelis a theory about the role of national identity in turning conflict into protracted conflict is developed. Drawing upon research from social psychology and international relations the study provides insight as to why the possibility of resolving conflict seems to trigger fears of annihilation in parties to the conflict. From this understanding it becomes clear why national identity needs to change, i.e. be disarmed, if conflict resolution is to be successful. What shape and function this change should have is explored from the understanding of the role of national identity in supporting conflict. As a consequence efforts to reach peace agreements that are sustainable need to address identity issues instead of ignore them. So far national identity has been perceived to be a great obstacle to conflict resolution and it has been argued that it should better be ignored. If one follows the theoretical argument of the thesis, a reconstruction of the conflict parties’ national identities should be one of the first steps in conflict resolution. Track-two diplomacy and reconciliation efforts are good platforms to implement a reshaping of national identity. The thesis aims at helping conflict resolution practitioners recognize the importance of identity work within and between conflict parties and provide an argument why this work may also be important to official negotiations.
Subject: sosiaalipsykologia
Rights: This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.


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