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Fierce Entanglements

Communication and Ethnopolitical Conflict

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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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7. Difficult Conversations

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← 158 | 159 →

Contemporary studies of conflict have much to say about the various difficulties and challenges associated with solving conflicts. And, of course, intractable conflicts (Coleman, 2003) are particularly trying. They resist resolution and force the participants to contend with difficult issues pertaining to sanctity, identity, and deep rooted values. But of all the ugly and murderous strands of conflict the world is subject to, those conflicts where religion fundamentally informs the values and beliefs of each side, and provides a group with a comprehensive and bounded system of beliefs, are often the most troubling and recalcitrant. Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Hindus are currently intertwined with one another – including differences that find their way into political and secular issues – in some complex ways that can be violent. And it is simply because intergroup religious, ethnic, and political conflict is so intense and difficult that we take it up in this chapter. If the nature and value of “difficult conversations” is a central theme that runs through this volume, then we should test and apply the various theoretical issues discussed to the most difficult cases. In this chapter we will explore in a little more detail one set of conditions typical of difficult conversations – religious and political communication. The final chapter (Chapter 8) finishes our examination with a focus on the clash between Islam and the West. We will begin with some philosophical conceptual foundations, and then becoming increasingly specific honing in on principles and theories of interreligious communication,...

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