Date: Friday, June 22, 2012
Peacing Together Conflicted Identities: Cultural Dominance, Affectivity and Bridgebuilding Amongst Moderate Israelis and Palestinians
- Chair: Bob Anderson
- Senior Supervisor: Rick Gruneau
- Supervisor: Gary McCarron
- Supervisor: Stuart Poyntz
- Internal Examiner: Martin Laba
- External Examiner: Michael Real (School of Communication and Culture, Royal Roads University)
This dissertation seeks to enhance the study of conflict resolution by building on literature which explores key questions centering on culture and conflict. Scholars who began developing this subfield of research have pointed to the fact that conventional approaches to conflict resolution ignore fundamental cultural areas which are necessary to understand the root causes of international conflict. This dissertation attempts to further existing research by integrating foundational academic work in critical cultural theory with existing scholarship on culture and conflict resolution. Weaving these areas of research together potentially offers insight into “the central conflict” of this writing, the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian struggle, within the context of those Israelis and Palestinians that work together to challenge the current cultural paradigm.
In an attempt to broadly outline the key cultural components of conflict, a constellation of factors centering on cultural identity, collective memory and trauma are explored. While these factors have a “universal character”, they permeate Israeli and Palestinian dominant cultural narratives on a variety of levels. This manifests most destructively in the way the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians are constrained by a discourse which effectively perpetuates polarized subjectivities. The internalization of this discourse situates individual consciousness within a collective struggle interwoven with dominance and affectivity. While relationships of dominance perpetuating destructive intra- and inter-societal tendencies are pervasive, other “relational outcomes” exist simultaneously. My initial exploration of these dominant cultural tendencies is valuable in the sense that it allows for them to be thoroughly considered in the context of how they are being worked through by agents who recognize their potency yet are not constrained by them. The use of narrative on collective, interpersonal and intrapersonal levels, can be identified as the catalyzing processes which help these agents “creatively reposition” themselves.
My case study, Peace it Together (PIT), a Canadian NGO which facilitates bridgebuilding between Israeli and Palestinian youth speaks to the agentive potential to actively deploy narrative processes as a means to transcend dominant normative relationships. Their summer peace camp uses media education through the development of filmmaking skills to assist the youth to overcome the internalization of victimization, understand the other side’s suffering and work toward altering prevailing cultural narratives. Their initiatives are therefore part of a process of working through existing cultural limitations in a variety of ways. While these limitations are exacerbated and more vicious outside of their “progressive circles”, they still exist within them and require dedicated work in order for incremental personal shifts to be possible. Participants involved in PIT and other bridgebuilding organizations understand that they are a part of, not separate from these dynamics.
PITs work is complemented by these like-minded organizations committed to deeper understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. Such initiatives are captured within the emerging field of co-existence, which essentially attempts to theoretically situate alternative approaches to conflict resolution. A juxtaposition of the work of those bridgebuilding organizations with conventional notions of conflict resolution is undertaken in order to highlight the limitations of the latter. In this sense, negotiation, mediation and international diplomacy tend to operate within societal power centres and therefore replicate dynamics endemic to those centres. Here we find realpolitik prevailing over deeper understanding, strategically outmanoeuvring an opponent superseding the need to address the root causes of conflict. Divisions are often exacerbated and intergenerational conflict continues.
Location: Harbour Centre, room 1315