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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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8. Islam, the West, and Conflict Resolution


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We will conclude with a more sharply drawn framework for issues and touch points of dialogue and deliberation between two groups that are culturally distinct, namely, Islam and the West as portrayed in Table 7.2. I realize that drawing generalities about cultures and religion (e.g., “Islam” or “the West”) is perilous business and many distinctions and semantic nuances are either exaggerated or ignored. And, as explained in Chapter 4, conflict functions on various levels (macro, civil society, transformational) and each calls for differences in approach. But peacemaking and problem resolution is called for nonetheless. I continue with this Islam-West distinction because it is characteristic of how the public formulates the conflict. Intergroup communication is the only thing that fosters new forms of trust and recognizes how identity and religion are a microcosm that is situated in the broader environment of politics, economics, and culture. Some will surely be critical of this supposedly simplistic distinction, but it does represent the level at which the conflict is talked about. Funk and Said’s (2004) discussion of competing narratives categorizes the conflict as between “Islam” and “the West” and uses these categories as the level at which dispute in consciousness operates. It is also a better capture of the conflict than phrases such as “civilizational conflicts,” a terminology probably worth avoiding (Köse). Moreover, and consistent with Funk and Said (2004), although nuance and situational specificity are sacrificed arguments can be made for commonalities. Additionally, my goals are not the...

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