Understanding Conflicts--Cross-Cultural Perspectives (UC2008)

Venue: University of Aarhus, Lakeside Auditorium

Location: 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

Event Date/Time: Aug 19, 2008 End Date/Time: Aug 23, 2008
Registration Date: May 31, 2008
Early Registration Date: Jan 31, 2008
Abstract Submission Date: Feb 15, 2008
Paper Submission Date: Jul 31, 2008
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Understanding Conflicts—
Cross-Cultural Perspectives

An international, interdisciplinary research conference on the diversity of conceptions and cultural images of conflicts, based on analyses of research models, mediation practices, and religious worldviews

Conflicts are part of human life—wherever humans interact, as individuals, as groups, as representatives of a culture, their diverse interests and values often cannot be jointly realized. The development of conflicts largely depends on how the conflicting parties view the situation they are in. Attention to differences in the images of conflicts—the agentive understanding of sources, dynamics, and possible transformations of conflicts—is thus of central significance for conflict management and intervention.

The purpose of this conference is to explore and engage cultural differences in approaches to conflict as articulated in theories and implemented in social practices. Accounts and models in the interdisciplinary field of “Conflict Analysis and Resolution” (e.g., game-theoretic, algorithmic, communication-theoretic, norm-theoretic approaches) shall be put into wider cross-cultural perspective where other sources of agentive orientation besides empirical science are also taken into account.

The conference will be focused on the analysis of cultural diversity in conceptions of conflict as documented in theoretical models of empirical research and research in the humanities, reflections on mediation and counselling practices, and, in particular, religious worldviews in theological interpretation. Different cultures (systems of symbol-mediated interactive practices) not only generate conflicts but also impose on agents different “conflict cultures”— preferences for certain types of conflict dynamics (war, settlements, reconciliation) and predispositions for certain forms of epistemic approach (rational analysis, psychological hermeneutics, deep orientation or ‘spiritual opening’).

The leading questions raised by the meeting will be of theoretical and practical significance. Empirical studies of conflicts in psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, and political science describe particular (classes of) conflicts for the purposes of explanation and prediction. To what extent are the theoretical models of conflict analysis in contact with practical conceptions implemented in counselling and mediation? To what extent do cultural images of conflicts and associated conflict cultures matter in theoretical description and practical understanding? Does the history of conflicts show that differences in the cultural images of conflicts matter for conflict dynamics? What kinds of cultural images of conflicts and associated conflict cultures are projected by the five world religions? Can the humanities—in particular philosophy—provide conceptual and methodological orientation for the formation of a new cultural image of conflict or a new associated conflict culture that allows for constructive interactions with diversity?

Expected results:
The conference will generate are research contributions that are directly relevant for the transformation of cultural conflicts (not only by third party intervention but also by the conflicting parties themselves) and thus bound to receive particular attention by the larger public.

Conference Organizers: Johanna Seibt, Jesper Garsdal, Steen Wackerhausen
The funding for this conference is provided by the University of Aarhus, Research Focus Area “Knowledge Society” led by Steen Wackerhausen, and the SophiaEuropa Program of the METANEXUS Institute, USA.

Conference topics and session headers:
Theme 1: Conflict Analysis: (cross-cultural) Reflections on Methods and Theories
Session Plenary 1.1 On method
Session 1.1.1: Problems of Description
Session 1.1.2: Problems of empirical research
Session Plenary 1.2 Theories and Models of Conflict Analysis
Session 1.2.1: Modelling conflict dynamics
Session 1.2.2: Ontologies (descriptive categories) of conflict
Theme 2: Causes and Reasons of Conflict in cross-cultural perspective
Session Plenary 2.1 Conflict and Identity
Session 2.1.1. Social (cultural) identity
Session 2.1.2 Gender
Session Plenary 2.2 Conflict and Values
Session 2.2.1 Conflict and Emotion
Session 2.2.2 Conflict and Communication
Theme 3: Conflict Transformation in cross-cultural perspective
Session Plenary 3.1. People changing
Session 3.1.1 Personal transformation
Session 3.1.2 Social transformation
Session Plenary 3.2 Changing people
Session 3.2.1 Third party intervention
Session 3.2.2 Education
Workshops and Praxis Reports
Theme 4: Conflict and Culture
Session Plenary 4.1 Conflict Cultures
Session 4.1.1 Risk and Security
Session 4.1.2 Cultural practices of peace
Session Plenary 4.2 Solidarity
Session 4.2.1 Responsibility for past and future
Session 4.2.2 Globalization
Theme 5: Conflict and Religion
Session Plenary 5.1 Interreligious dialogue
Session 5.1.1 Religious diversity
Session 5.1.2 Dialogue and certainty
Session Plenary 5.2 Religion and conflict transformation
Session 5.2.1 Religious (in)tolerance
Session 5.2.2 Living Spirit