Report on the EASP Meeting: Challenging the Narrative of Intractable Conflict
15.11.2017, by Sibylle Classen in meeting report
Belfast, UK, June 26-28, 2017
Organisers: Lesley Storey, Laura Taylor, and Thia Sagherian-Dickey
The medium group meeting “Challenging the Narrative of Intractable Conflict” was organised by Lesley Storey, Laura Taylor, and Thia Sagherian-Dickey, and hosted by the Centre for Identity and Intergroup Relations at Queen’s University Belfast. The meeting was held in Belfast, June 26-28, 2017. Its purpose was to bring together academics from multiple disciplines and at various stages in their careers to discuss current theoretical and methodological approaches with respect to researching societies and contexts characterised by conflict. The meeting aimed to provide a space to critically discuss the psychology of legitimacy, stigma, and socio-political participation and to broaden our understanding of the challenges that arise from research in this context. To that end, in addition to paper presentations and extended discussions, we were honoured to invite Emeritus Professor Daniel Bar-Tal (Tel Aviv University) to give the public keynote lecture. We were also honoured to have Dr. Rezarta Bilali (NYU Steinhardt) lead a pre-meeting postgraduate workshop on conducting field research in conflict contexts.
A total of 26 people (18 women) attended and participated in the meeting, of whom 13 were EASP members. Our delegates joined us from universities around the world, including the UK, USA, Turkey, and Germany, and representing several countries including Israel, Indonesia, Turkey, Denmark, Belgium, with 11 doctoral students.
Day 1 began with a half-day pre-meeting workshop entitled “Conducting Research in Conflict Settings: Navigating Practical and Ethical Challenges” led by Dr. Rezarta Bilali. The workshop was designed for postgraduate students attending the meeting, as well as locally based postgraduates who were could not attend the meeting but nevertheless wished to benefit from the workshop opportunity. As such, the workshop attracted a multi-disciplinary audience, with 17 attendees from multiple backgrounds, including psychology, sociology, education, peace and conflict studies, and politics. The workshop involved teaching and discussion, as well as a simulation study.
The meeting officially began with a welcome lunch on Day 1, followed by two panels of paper presentations delivered by the attendees. Panel one, “Victims and Counter Narratives of Conflict”, included topics of ingroup and outgroup suffering as a narrative for reconciliation among Jewish Israeli, American, and Turkish Kurd sample groups; the role of narratives and victimization in the post-communist purge in Indonesia; socio-psychological accounts of collective victimization among South Sudanese immigrants; and macro-level political violence represented in Northern Irish newspapers. The second panel of presentations was titled “Engaging in Peace” and included talks on the implications of identity content theory in the Northern Ireland peace process; psychological barriers and facilitators of peacebuilding among marginalised female communities in Northern Ireland; social representations of the peace process in the Turkish media; the conceptualisation of social change among British anti-war activists; and Kurdish conflict narratives of lay people and elites regarding conflict resolution. Following these two panels, the delegates engaged in a plenary discussion in small groups around some of the emerging themes of the presentations. The day officially ended with a wine reception and networking opportunities in a relaxed and informal environment.
Day 2 began with two panel presentations, followed again by a plenary discussion on the emerging themes from the panels. The first panel of the second day, titled “Using Social Identity Theory to Understand Conflict”, included topics on the effect of the outcome of war on national pride, belonging, and sense of community; intergroup giving among children in living in segregated neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland; perceptions of identification, conflict, and peace in Turkey’s village guards; discursive analysis of post-conflict opinion in Belfast regarding violence against the Roma community; and preliminary findings on a 5-year longitudinal research on shared education in Northern Ireland. The final panel, “Theoretical Insights on Intractable Conflict”, covered themes of external belief systems in the Georgian/South Ossetian conflict; trust, cooperation, and social identity in Northern Ireland; and social representations across imagined boundaries among Jewish and Palestinian medical staff in northern Israel.
The second day also featured a workshop/discussion session led by Drs. Lesley Storey and Kevin McNicholl on the challenges to peace. Day 2 ended with the keynote lecture of Professor Daniel Bar-Tal, titled “Narratives Supporting Conflict”. His lecture was open to the public and attracted approximately 40 academics from multiple disciplines, as well as practitioners and stakeholders in Northern Ireland.
The final day of the meeting opened with a seminar and discussion led by Professor Bar-Tal on the Israel-Palestine conflict, followed by a plenary session led by Dr. Bilali on conducting interventions in social psychological research. The meeting closed with a final informal hot lunch.
The positive feedback from the delegates highlighted the opportunity that the meeting provided for discussion about the challenges academics face when conducting research in conflict societies. Specifically, the plenary discussions and the final morning’s sessions led by Professor Bar-Tal and Dr. Bilali afforded the space to openly and critically examine these challenges and to address the real-life difficulties for researchers in certain contexts. The reality of such challenges was practically realised when we watched a video message from one of the delegates from Turkey who was unable to attend the meeting due to political restrictions on travel from her government.
The administrative organisation of this meeting was overseen by the meticulous work of Dr. Kevin McNicholl, who took on several unseen tasks that nevertheless were crucial to the running of the conference. We are indebted also to several bodies that made this meeting possible through their general grants. They include firstly the European Association of Social Psychology, as well as the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), the Northern Ireland branch of the British Psychological Society, the Mitchell Institute (QUB), and the Graduate School (QUB).
• Daniel Bar-Tal
• Thia Sagherian-Dickey
• Laura K Taylor
• Lesley Storey
• Ioana Latu
• Karen Trew
• Rhiannon Turner
• Yasemin Acar
• Andrew Charles
• Cathy Nicholson
• Dean O'Driscoll
• Emma O'Dwyer
• Özden Melis Uluğ
• Ahmet Çoymak
• Camilla Edemann Callesen
• Dana Townsend
• Danielle Baylock
• Haidar Thontowi
• Kisane Prutton
• Maya Hadar
• Michelle Twali
• Nazan Avci
• Quinnehtukqut McLamore
• Rosemary McKeever
• Sam Nunney
• Sumedh Rao
Guest Pre-meeting workshop leader: Rezarta Bilali
Administrative Coordinator: Kevin McNicholl