Dialogue and the Cultural Other in Conflict Situations: An Augmented Understanding
by Michael Atkinson – [ Journal of Dialogue Studies Vol 7 ]
AbstractIn edition 1 volume 1 of the Dialogue Journal I outlined the case for a three-tiered framework to theoretically position intergroup dialogue. The framework was based on a) the concept of difference between groups, b) the bridging of difference through an inclusive vision, and c) transformation framed through the understanding of predominant dialogue scholars, chief amongst which was Paulo Freire. Although useful, I found the framework inadequate, particularly when applied to conflict situations. In short it fails to appreciate and interrogate difference and its role in the dialogue process. In particular, it does not take account of the competing narratives upon which difference and conflicting identities can interact. A framework of moral psychology based on the workings of behavioural psychologist Johnathon Haidt was utilised to go deeper into the manner in which people construct their sense of cultural identity. Haidt argues that we position the cultural other according to broad conceptions of moral reality to identify with either the certainty of a cultural in-group or the flexibility of broad notions of humanity. This paper explores this augmented framework of dialogue in the case of negotiations to treaty between Aboriginal Victorians and the Victorian government in Australia. Data analysis on interviews of key figures in the treaty process, as well as the analysis of an online interactive campaign involving members of both groups, revealed a hidden complexity to the dialogue process and the discourses from which cultural threat is framed. The paper argues the case that well thought out theories around identity can augment our understanding of dialogue.