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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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3. Reasonable Disagreement


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The liberal and communicatively deliberative approach to multicultural groups being developed here requires the concept of “reasonable disagreement.” Reasonable disagreement is simply the assumption that there is more than one defensible way to make an argument or hold a belief. It recognizes that no one group’s view of the world is clearly superior or correct. The idea of weak multiculturalism by definition implies the acceptance of cultural differences but not all differences and the use of the communication process to manage these differences. There is simply no way to control differences and inculcate cultural sensitivities in group members without there being remaining gaps of meaning and understanding that must be tolerated. As Iris Young (2000) has incisively pointed out, members of other groups must be transformed from “enemies” to be vanquished to “adversaries” to be engaged. Defining the other as the enemy does not require reasonable disagreement; one side considers itself to be thoroughly correct and the other side wrong thereby justifying the annihilation (either literally or symbolically) of the other. Adversaries are competing with one another for dominant meanings but recognize that one side cannot be thoroughly vanquished, even if they do end up on the losing side of an argument. This chapter is devoted to identifying the key issues of reasonable disagreement – the most important of which is a concept of the public that has built into its meaning diversity of perspectives and common interests that are a source of heterogeneity that must be...

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