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Fierce Entanglements

Communication and Ethnopolitical Conflict


Donald G. Ellis

The third in a trilogy on communication and ethnopolitical conflict, this book focuses on multicultural groups significantly divided by politics and religion. These groups have become «fiercely entangled»; that is, they are inescapably politically, socially, and culturally interdependent. Using the Israeli Palestinian conflict as the primary example, Ellis offers a timely analysis of how communication can begin to untangle these groups. Group differences lead to cultural differences – some of the most difficult aspects of a conflict. This book examines the nature of group differences as well as solutions-based conflict resolution that is embedded in theories of communication and democracy.
Ellis argues that resources are unequally distributed and differences are the norm. Politics is used to manage these differences and although communication is the fundamental tool of conflict management, there are other components in resolving conflicts that complement communication approaches. Dialogue and deliberation are posed as workable responses to untangling these differences and managing intractability.
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1. Foundations of Multiculturalism


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If you have a conversation with a religious settler in the West Bank and challenge him or her about their rights to the land, they are likely to tell you that God gave them this land and it was promised in the Bible to the Jews. At this point you are in a conversation with someone who has just invoked God as an argumentative warrant for the claim that the land belongs to the Jewish people. It is pretty difficult to challenge God as an authoritative source, so the conversation is sort of “stuck.” You are in what has been called a difficult conversation or what is referred to in this volume as a “fierce entanglement.” A fierce entanglement is a contentious relationship that you cannot extract yourself from. It’s a relationship based on unavoidable interdependence so that you cannot simply leave, and attempts to resolve problems are ineffectual. A marital relationship can be fiercely entangled as well as a political conflict, such as that between Israelis and Palestinians. The communication in the relationship involves powerful feelings including threats to identity and self-worth. The discursive issues in fierce entanglements are the most difficult and complex with the two parties often living in incommensurate moral universes. Multicultural relations are typically fiercely entangled. Israel-Palestine, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, and a host of others are all political conflicts associated with violence because deliberative communication (Ellis, 2012) is so difficult for them. This volume is about fierce entanglements and...

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