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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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5. Dialogue


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As we will see throughout the development of this chapter, dialogue is complex and used in a variety of ways, but its most essential meaning concerns conversations where individuals seek to gain better understanding of the other. It often refers to communication that explores concerns, needs, and misunderstanding and is conducted in a space outside “normal” conversation. It is commonplace to have participants in the dialogue set aside time and space which marks off the dialogic communication. In a political sense, dialogue is used to discuss issues that are typically contentious and in the process understand and incorporate the points of view of others. The fact that people “set aside” time and place for dialogue is indicative of its unique nature. In this book we will understand dialogue as conversation pursued by two or more parties for mutual understanding rather than agreement or solutions. Dialogue groups help inform, build consensus, and develop shared values while having a significant impact on the intensity and nature of disagreements. It is deliberation, addressed in detail in the next chapter, which is the form of communication best suited for resolving differences and generating solutions. Dialogue and deliberation go hand-in-hand and cannot be fully separated, but each has its own goal. Dialogue is most sharply distinct from debate. Debate is about winning arguments and clashes designed to gain the upper hand. Debate is a zero-sum game; dialogue focuses on mutual understanding and learning about the other. Dialogue is different from debate,...

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