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Critical Conflict Resolution: An Overview - Derek Sweetman & Michael D. English

A presentation given at the Association for Conflict Resolution conference.

Derek Sweetman

on 16 March 2015

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Transcript of Critical Conflict Resolution: An Overview - Derek Sweetman & Michael D. English


Critical Conflict Resolution:
Practice in the New Normal

Derek Sweetman & Michael D. English
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
George Mason University
Arlington, VA USA
Emergent Practice
and Theory


Workshop Questions:
How do we know a conflict is systemic?
Where can we intervene in systemic conflict?
How can we intervene in systemic conflict?
Misam Saleh / AFP - Getty Images
Andy Manis / AP
Occupy Amsterdam
Indignados Occupation, La puerta de Sol Madrid, May 19th
What is systemic conflict?
Are we satisfied with the answers our field can give to the Occupy conflict?
Systemic Conflict
Conflicts where political, social, and economic inequalities are transformed into antagonistic, asymmetric power relationships.
Critical Conflict Analysis
Research that addresses the embedded and systemic nature of many contemporary conflicts by examining systemic violence, system reflexivity, and ideology.
Systemic Violence
Incorporates Johan Galtung's direct, structural, and cultural violence into a systems approach.
Oppressive Violence
Structural violence that perpetuates a system.

Examples: inequality, discriminatory policy
Repressive Violence
Direct (physical) violence performed to maintain a system.

Examples: police brutality, lynchings, anti-LGBT attacks
Hegemonic Violence
Cultural violence that perpetuates a system.

Examples: militarism, myths of justice, popular representations
System Reflexivity
Systems are both dynamic and resistant to change.
Systemic Inertia
The general direction of a system is toward stability. It takes strong effort and clear thought to promote change.
In this context, ideology is understood as the mediated understanding of individuals in the system, in the form of "common sense," as evidenced by their actions.
CCR Practice
CCR envisions two complementary types of practitioners: emergent and evolutionary.
CCR Practice
Both types work with critical conflict researchers and theorists.
Conflict Reproduction
The performance of political, social, and economic inequalities through what otherwise seem to be mundane conflicts.
Recognizing Systemic Conflicts
Look for:
Heterogeneous conflicts
Conflict repetition
Unique conflicts are less likely to be systemic

Critical Research and Theory

Changes in the system lead to changes in systemic conflicts.
Emergent Practice
The "first responders" to systemic conflict.
Emergent Practitioners
Responds to the direct manifestation of conflict within a system.
Critical Observation
Seeing beyond the immediate case
Looking for systemic reproduction
With other emergent practitioners
With researchers and theorists
With evolutionary practitioners
Communicate with emergent practitioners
Gather empirical information
Model and explain the relevant system(s)
Areas of Special Interest
Systemic contradictions
Interactions of multiple systems
Systemic reproduction
Evolutionary Practice
Attempts to intervene in the system itself to reduce systemic violence and produce positive change.
Primary Approaches
Public Intellectual
Public Intellectual
Intervention into the public discourse and "common sense."
Supports those most harmed by systemic violence
Social activism
Pressures the system for change
Teaches against violent systems.
Critical pedagogy
Peace education
Representing (mediating) systemic violence into meaning and new common sense.
Full transcript