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Peacing together conflicted identities: cultural dominance, affectivity and bridgebuilding amongst moderate Israelis and Palestinians

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Thesis type
((Thesis)/(Dissertation)) Ph.D.
Date created
This dissertation seeks to enhance the study of conflict resolution by building on literature which explores key questions centering on culture and conflict. Scholars who began developing this subfield of research have pointed to conventional approaches to conflict resolution that ignore fundamental cultural areas which are necessary to understand root causes of international conflict. This dissertation attempts to further existing research by integrating foundational academic work in critical cultural theory with existing scholarship on culture and conflict resolution. Weaving these areas of research together offers insight into “the central conflict” of this writing, the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian struggle, within the context of Israelis and Palestinians that work together to challenge the current cultural paradigm. In an attempt to outline key cultural components of conflict, a constellation of factors centering on cultural identity, collective memory and trauma are explored. While these factors have a “universal character”, they permeate Israeli and Palestinian dominant cultural narratives on many levels. This destructively manifests in the way the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians are constrained by discourses which effectively perpetuate polarized subjectivities. The internalization of this discourse situates individual consciousness within a collective struggle interwoven with dominance and affectivity. While relationships of dominance perpetuating destructive intra- and inter-societal tendencies are pervasive, other “relational outcomes” exist simultaneously. The use of narrative on collective, inter-personal and intra-personal levels, can be identified as the catalyzing processes used by agents who consciously choose to “creatively reposition” their place within dominant paradigm. My case study, Peace it Together (PIT), a Canadian NGO which facilitates bridgebuilding between Israeli and Palestinian youth speaks to this agentive potential. Their summer peace camp uses media education through the development of filmmaking skills to assist participants to work through existing cultural constraints. The painstaking dedication required for incremental personal shifts to be possible is centered on PIT participants’ understanding that they are a part of these dynamics. PIT’s work is complemented by exploring like-minded organizations committed to deeper understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. Such initiatives are captured within the emerging field of co-existence, which attempts to theoretically situate alternative approaches to conflict resolution.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Gruneau, Richard
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