Drawing on narrative theory, this book defines conflict as a narrative process, examines the politics of narrative violence in conflicts, and offers a critical narrative theory, not only for a new definition of conflict, but also as an ethics for both conflict analysis and conflict intervention. Exemplary case analyses include some of the critical conflicts in world today, such as the Middle East, environmental conflicts, and the immigration wars in the US. The first section of the book entitled The Pragmatics of Narrative in Conflict Processes opens with a discuss ... More
Drawing on narrative theory, this book defines conflict as a narrative process, examines the politics of narrative violence in conflicts, and offers a critical narrative theory, not only for a new definition of conflict, but also as an ethics for both conflict analysis and conflict intervention. Exemplary case analyses include some of the critical conflicts in world today, such as the Middle East, environmental conflicts, and the immigration wars in the US. The first section of the book entitled The Pragmatics of Narrative in Conflict Processes opens with a discussion of the complexities of narrating violence and pain, laying the groundwork for why these narratives matter. Subsequent chapters in this section define conflict narratives in terms of their structural features and process dynamics; this description lays the foundation for mapping the escalation of conflict narratives, as well as their transformation. The second section, entitled Critical Narrative Theory: A Lens for the Analysis of Conflicts, addresses the politics of conflict narratives. “Critical narrative theory” is offered as a framework for assessing the power dynamics of conflict narratives. Using Nelson’s (2002) notion of “damaged identities,” Foucault (2001, 2008) concept of “natality” and Lyotard’s (1989) concept of the “differend,” witnessing is defined as a narrative aesthetic practice that generate “humanizing” narratives. This section ends with a discussion of a new theory of conflict, arising from critical narrative theory. The third section, entitled Aesthetics as an Ethics of Conflict Resolution Practice examines the implications of a critical narrative theory of conflict for the practice of conflict resolution. First, the ethics derived from critical narrative theory are explored and the implications for negotiation, dialogue, deliberation, and problem-solving workshops are explored. Finally, this section will summarize conflict resolution in terms of an aesthetic for practice that calls for and supports the emergence of transformation of radicalized narratives into “better-formed” narratives. In the context of ongoing or historical violence, people tell stories about what happened, who did what to whom and why. And all too often, speaking of violence reproduces the social fractures and delegitimizes, again, those that struggle against their own marginalization. This speaking of violence deepens conflict and all too often perpetuates cycles of violence. Alternatively, sometimes people do not speak of the violence and it is erased, buried with the bodies that bear it witness, and reducing the capacity of the public to address issues emerging in the aftermath of violence and repression. However, it is also possible to speak of violence in a manner that acknowledges suffering without reproducing the social divisions and fractures. The consequences of speaking about violence depend on the narratives that are told. We both are, and we become, the stories we tell. This book takes the notion of “narrative” as foundational to conflict analysis and resolution. Different from other conflict theories that rely on account of attitudes or perceptions, in the heads of individuals, this narrative perspective presumes that meaning, structured and organized as narrative processes, is the location for both analysis of conflict, as well as intervention. But since meaning is political, in that not all stories can be told or the way they are told delegitimizes / erases Others, critical narrative theory offers a normative approach to narrative assessment and intervention, a way of evaluating narrative and designing “better-formed” stories. These stories are “better” in that they are generative of sustainable relations, they create legitimacy for all parties, and in so doing, function aesthetically and ethically to support the emergence of new histories, and new futures. Indeed, critical narrative theory offers a new lens for enabling people to speak of violence in ways that undermine the intractability of conflict.
|Print publication date: 2013||Print ISBN-13: 9780199826209|
|Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013||DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199826209.001.0001|