George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Introduction to Conflict Resolution: Discourses and Dynamics

by Sara Cobb / Sarah Federman / Alison Castel

Publication Details MORE LESS

  • Pages: 912
  • Language: English
  • Published Date: July 2, 2019
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield International
  • ISBN: 978-1786608529


Edited by Sara Cobb, Sarah Federman, and Alison Castel

The field of conflict resolution has evolved dramatically during the relatively short duration of the discipline’s existence. Each generation of scholars has struggled with the major puzzles of their era, providing theories and solutions that meet the needs of the time, only to be pushed forward by new insights and, at times, totally upended by a changing world.

This introductory course text explores the genealogy of the field of conflict resolution by examining three different epochs of the field, each one tied to the historical context and events of the day. In each of these epochs, scholars and practitioners worked to understand and address the conflicts that the world was facing, at that time.

This book provides a framework that students will carry with them far into their careers, enriching their contributions and strengthening their voices. Rather than a didactic approach to the field, students will develop their critical analytical skills through an inductive inquiry. Students will broaden their vocabulary, grapple with argumentation, and develop critical reading skills.


Some of the dominant discourses of conflict resolution we see referenced in this book have had devastating impacts on the populations we were meant to serve, from the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to the Oxfam and Save the Children scandals in 2018. This book tells the story of how conflict resolution has become reconciled with critical thinking over time. It is not just an anthology of peace of conflict studies since WW2, but the first systematic look at the power matrix of conflict resolution in its theories, practices and research methods. As peace and conflict practitioners, knowing our colonial past means that we can never lose sight of the populations we now assist in their peacebuilding efforts.

Victoria Fontan, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, Social Sciences and Humanities Division Chair, American University of Afghanistan

By comprehensively tracing developments in conflict resolution theory, this book provides readers with the necessary tools to look at conflict through a variety of lenses. By encouraging readers to critically engage with conflict through various perspectives, Introduction to Conflict Resolution will undoubtedly contribute to the next generation of reflective, responsible and well-rounded conflict resolution students, scholars and practitioners.

Brian A. Kritz, Associate Director of the M.A. Program in Conflict Resolution, Georgetown University

This book is spectacular – and should be required in conflict resolution across the globe! The editors take us on a fascinating intellectual journey through the evolving field of conflict resolution, highlighting major theoretical contributions and contextualizing each within the broader sociopolitical discourse of its time. We come to see these theories as emergent within the fabric of specific historical eras and, as such, we gain new perspective from which to understand, appreciate, and critique them. In fact, the editors infuse each major theorist’s perspective with their own thoughtful– and at times provocative—insights, turning this book into a living, breathing intellectual conversation that may just be the kind of discourse our world needs right now to embolden a greater peace.

Daniel L. Shapiro, Founder and Director, Harvard International Negotiation Program

Conflict and its successful resolution is the most important, yet least understood, problem of our time, underlying societies’ inability to deal with its many other unsolved problems: e.g., identity clashes, climate change, and infectious disease. Introduction to Conflict Resolution presents a unique and insightful analysis of the theoretical and practical development of the conflict resolution and peacebuilding fields, giving students a powerful understanding of how conflict might be better handled going forward.

Heidi and Guy Burgess, Co-Directors, Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado




About the Authors 

Part I: Epoch One: 1945 – The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Epoch One – Topics

Aggression: Barash and Webel- The Individual Level

Human Needs: Burton – Needs Theory

Greed and Grievance: Collier – Economic Causes of Civil Conflict

Structural Violence: Galtung – Violence, Peace, and Peace Research 

Epoch One – Tactics and Strategies 

Negotiation: Wertheim – Negotiations and Resolving Conflict

Game Theory: Brams – Theory of Moves

Alternative Dispute Resolution: (ADR): Sander- Alternative Methods of Dispute Resolution 

Epoch One- Research Methodologies

Global Peace Index and Global Terrorism Index 

Failed States: Etsy and Goldstone – The State Failure Project

Negotiation Outcomes: Irmer and Druckman – Explaining Negotiation Outcomes 

Epoch One: Questions for Discussion 

Part II: Epoch Two: Coexistence as Peace 1991-2000

Epoch Two: Topics

Coexistence: Chayes – Imagine Coexistence

Identity: Kriesberg- Identity Issues

Culture: Avruch- Frames for Culture and Conflict Resolution 

Religion: Gopin – Religion as an Aid and a Hindrance 

Gender: Cheldelin and Eliatamby—Challenging the Dominant Narrative 

Intractable Conflict and Trauma

Intractable Conflicts: Burgess –What Are Intractable Conflicts?

Moral Conflict - Pearce and Littlejohn – The Problems of Moral Conflict

Chosen Trauma: Volkan – Large-group Psychodynamics and Massive Violence 

Epoch Two: Approaches

Emotion: Fisher and Shapiro - Emotions are Powerful, Present and Hard to Handle

Problem Solving Workshops Kelman- Interactive Problem Solving as a Tool for Second Track Diplomacy

Mediation: Curle –Mediation 

World Café: Brown - The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter

Appreciative Inquiry: McClellan- Marrying Positive Psychology to Mediation

Systems Thinking: Vallacher- Rethinking Intractable Conflict 


Everett: Intergroup Contact Theory

Lederach, John Paul -An Integrated Model for Peacebuilding

Non-violence: Sharp – Facing Acute Conflict 

Truth and Reconciliation: Rotberg and Thompson: Truth v. Justice: The Morality of Truth Commissions

Epoch Two: Research Methodologies

Grounded Theory: Akinyoake --Developing Grounded Theory in Peace and Conflict Research 

Case Study: Federman: Genocide Studies and Corporate Social Responsibility: The Contemporary Case of the French National Railways (SNCF)


Hoey- A Simple Introduction to the Practice of Ethnography 

Nordstrom: Shadows of War

Epoch Two: Questions for Discussion 

Part III: Epoch Three – Transboundary Conflicts- 2001-Present 

Epoch Three: Topics 

Power, Marginalization, and the Politics of Voice

Power: Jabri - Discourses on Violence 

Narrative Theory: Cobb - Speaking of Violence

Beyond Coexistence: Payne - Contentious Coexistence

Politics of Victimhood: Enns -When Victims Become Killers

Feminist Theory: Enloe - Bananas, Beaches, and Bases 

Silence: Dwyer - A Politics of Silences

Narrative Repair: Nelson - Reclaiming Moral Agency 

Epoch Three: Praxis

Critical Theory: Hansen: Critical Conflict Resolution Theory and Practice

Narrative Mediation: Winslade: Narrative Mediation: What is it? 

Radical Care: Ginwright: Fostering Caring Relationships for Social Justice 

Social Media: Castells: Dignity, Violence and Geopolitics: The Arab Uprisings 

Upending Normative Processes: Gardner: The Dork Police

Epoch Three: Research Methodologies

Participatory Action Research (PAR): Fine and Torre - Re-membering Exclusions: PAR in Public Institutions 

Decolonizing Research: Fontan - The Case for Decolonizing Peace

Epoch Three: Questions for Discussion 



Other Contributors

Sarah Federman and Alison Castel