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HomeMediating conflicts between groups with different worldviews

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Published on Friday, February 28, 2020 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

In recent decades, more and more violent conflicts have a religious or cultural dimension and take place between groups adhering to different religious or secular visions of the state and society. When groups with different worldviews are required to share the same (social, political, virtual, economic, or military) space, this can lead to tensions and give rise to violence—ranging from offensive language to physical attacks and open warfare.

Announcement

Call for Abstracts for Action Research Workshop in Zurich (27 – 29 May 2020)

Convenors

Convened by the Culture and Religion in Mediation Program (ETH Zurich), the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (Seton Hall University) and the University of British Columbia.

Problem Statement

In recent decades, more and more violent conflicts have a religious or cultural dimension and take place between groups adhering to different religious or secular visions of the state and society. When groups with different worldviews are required to share the same (social, political, virtual, economic, or military) space, this can lead to tensions and give rise to violence—ranging from offensive language to physical attacks and open warfare. There are three main aspects why attending to worldviews in conflict is important:

1. Content

Worldviews can shape the issues of a conflict. Consider the conflicts in different parts of the world where certain groups call for religious texts to be central to public morality, while their opponents are seeking to build a society based, for instance, on new gender categories or new ethical understandings of human-​animal relations. Moreover, people struggle over the nature of state & the polity or pieces of land deemed sacred. In such conflicts, ways of seeing the world define what the actors fight for.

2. Relations

In cases where the issues of the conflict seem factual—e.g. the sharing of power, resources, or technological control—differences of worldview can render communication & relations between the different sides to a conflict more difficult. Chinese and US officials discussing matters such as the data gathering conducted by different technology companies, for instance, may not be able to find peaceful solutions for coordinating their actions because they do not understand how the other side sees the world and imagines the future.

3. Process

Groups with different worldviews often have difficulties to agree on a process to resolve a conflict, because they may have fundamentally different assumptions about what such a process is and what the actions of the other side mean. Mediators need to be aware of their own worldview, which may be more aligned with one of the parties. How do mediators relate to their own worldview and those of the parties when designing and supporting a peace process?

For the purpose of this workshop, we define worldview as a “historically continued conversation about how to live a good life both individually and as a community.” In any worldview, we can distinguish two levels:

  • Principles - Textually or orally transmitted foundational stories - Formal rules & informal obligations sustaining community
  • Practices - Habitual—and sometimes unconscious—ways of perceiving the world - Everyday actions, interactions & reactions to unforeseen situations

There is a constant tension between principles and practices. While principles provide continuity and orientation, practices constantly adapt to changing circumstances. People reinterpret and reframe principles in order to make sense of new kinds of practices. Among adherents of any worldview, we, therefore, encounter debates in which people use the moral weight of principles to hold others (including political leaders) accountable and tell different stories drawing on their worldview’s principles in order to give meaning to new situations and to shape the course of action.

The purpose of this open definition of worldview is to consider different religious (such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism) and non-​religious currents (building on strands of nationalism, liberalism, communism, Confucianism, environmentalism, feminism, or anti-​racism) through the same conceptual prism. We think that such definition is useful for mediating and transforming conflicts between groups with different worldviews, because it makes us perceptive of the dynamics that occur within and between worldviews.

Aim of the Workshop

This workshop is an exchange among mediation & peace practitioners and researchers with the aim of collecting and comparing effective methods for mediating and transforming conflict between groups with different worldviews. The focus is on practical learning. What works? When? Under which conditions? In order to explore these questions, we will address:

  1. Impasses: When do efforts to mediate or transform conflicts between groups with different worldviews lead to impasses (on the levels of issues, relations, and process)? What are the specific challenges that arise from worldview differences?
  2. Methods: Which methods do practitioners use for dealing with challenges arising from worldview differences? How do practitioners adapt their process design in such contexts?
  3. Theories of change: What are the different theories of change that practitioners articulate in order to explain how their methods effectively transform conflicts between actors with different worldviews?

Abstracts

We welcome mediation & peace practitioners to submit abstracts (200 to 500 words) that briefly outline the conflict they worked on, the impasses they encountered due to worldview differences, and the methods they used to deal with different challenges (which may have occurred on the level of issues, relations, or process).

The organizers will support selected case givers to draft a written paper (10 to 15 pages) in advance of the workshop. The aim is not to produce academic papers, but well structured accounts of how practitioners encounter and deal with challenges arising from worldview differences.

Send in your abstracts and a short bio-​note here.

Deadline is 3 March 2020.

In your application, please indicate if you require funding to cover your travel and accommodation costs.

Funding available for a limited number of participants.

Expected Outcomes

During the workshop, practitioners will present their cases and experiences. After their presentations, a facilitator will react to both presentations and then moderate a “reflection circle” where all the participants including researchers ask questions in order to put each case in perspective and distil what can be learnt from it conceptually and practically. Throughout the workshop, we seek to draw comparisons between the different conflicts discussed and the different methods used for transforming them.

We aim at the following outcomes:

  • A workshop report summarizing the principal findings and circulating it among diplomats, policy makers, and mediators working in relevant fields.
  • Continued exchange (possibly in form of a network or blog series) between researchers and practitioners in order to develop the conceptual language for speaking about differences of worldview in conflict as well as to collect and compare methods for mediating and transforming conflicts between actors with different worldviews.
  • Possibly, a book project or a booklet.

 

Places

  • TBC - Rämistrasse 101
    Zurich, Switzerland (8092)

Date(s)

  • Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Keywords

  • conflict, mediation, peace, transformation, war, worldview, ethics, violence, negotiation, action research, public ethnography

Contact(s)

  • Emanuel Schaeublin
    courriel : eschaeublin [at] ethz [dot] ch

Information source

  • Emanuel Schaeublin
    courriel : eschaeublin [at] ethz [dot] ch

To cite this announcement

« Mediating conflicts between groups with different worldviews », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, February 28, 2020, https://calenda.org/753411

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