CULTURE AND CONFLICT (PART 5)

Posting by Ade Tuty Anggriany | 11:43 AM

a) Ways of naming, framing, and taming conflict,

Ways of naming, framing, and taming conflict vary across cultural boundaries. As the example of the elderly Chinese interviewee illustrates, not everyone agrees on what constitutes a conflict. For those accustomed to subdued, calm discussion, an emotional exchange among family members may seem a threatening conflict. The family members themselves may look at their exchange as a normal and desirable airing of differing views. Intractable conflicts are also subject to different interpretations. Is an event a skirmish, a provocation, an escalation, or a mere trifle, hardly worth noticing? The answer depends on perspective, context, and how identity relates to the situation.

Just as there is no consensus across cultures or situations on what constitutes a conflict or how events in the interaction should be framed, so there are many different ways of thinking about how to tame it. Should those involved meet face to face, sharing their perspectives and stories with or without the help of an outside mediator? Or should a trusted friend talk with each of those involved and try to help smooth the waters? Should a third party be known to the parties or a stranger to those involved?

John Paul Lederach, in his book Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures, identifies two third-party roles that exist in U.S. and Somali settings, respectively -- the formal mediator and the traditional elder. The formal mediator is generally not known to those involved, and he or she tries to act without favoritism or investment in any particular outcome. Traditional elders are revered for their local knowledge and relationships, and are relied upon for direction and advice, as well as for their skills in helping parties communicate with each other. The roles of insider partial (someone known to the parties who is familiar with the history of the situation and the webs of relationships) and outsider neutral (someone unknown to the parties who has no stake in the outcome or continuing relationship with the parties) appear in a range of cultural contexts. Generally, insider partials tend to be preferred in traditional, high-context settings, while outside neutrals are more common in low-context settings.

These are just some of the ways that taming conflict varies across cultures. Third parties may use different strategies with quite different goals, depending on their cultural sense of what is needed. In multicultural contexts, parties' expectations of how conflict should be addressed may vary, further escalating an existing conflict.

0 Comment