Intergroup Dialogue: a Theoretical Positioning

It has been premised that group based dialogue may be viewed as a face-to-face facilitated conversation between members of two or more social identity groups for the purpose of new levels of understanding, relating, and action. Beyond this superficial meaning however intergroup dialogue exhibits a number of definitional and thereby theoretical inconsistencies leading to confusion and lack of clarity regarding the term. Concerns regarding what constitutes a group and of dialogue vie with issues of power to create a diversity of approaches towards multivocal conversation. This paper suggests that a useful approach to understanding intergroup dialogue is to acknowledge that meanings will always be contested. Drawing on academic and empirical examples this paper explores and unpacks different influences and epistemologies that underpin conceptual understandings of both dialogue and of the group. It is noted that group membership may be classified according to positivistic, critical or constructivist orientations while dialogue, although not so epistemologically differentiated, nevertheless draws on diverse scholarly conceptualisations from which it is defined and presented. The paper concludes through acknowledging that our understanding of dialogue itself is an ongoing project involving meaningful interactions across difference.

Michael Atkinson

PhD Candidate, Deakin University

Michael Atkinson is a PhD student with the department of Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University, Australia.