The issue of cultural variation in conflict mediation has attracted considerable interest, probably because of wide-ranging theoretical, methodological, and ethical implications. Scholars are raising increasing questions about both generic theories of the mediation process and past conceptualizations of the culture construct. This article reviews theoretical perspectives on culture and conflict mediation and discusses them in relation to fieldwork conducted in the Gambia among three ethnolinguistic groups. Some local and cross-cultural patterns in the mediation process were found. These patterns are associated with variables such as ethnicity, gender, and social status. However, comparative analysis on the individual level revealed considerable diversity in praxis, suggesting that cross-cultural studies should go beyond descriptions of group tendencies. Indeed, the amount of variation in the data implies a need to reconsider aspects of prevailing approaches to conflict mediation. The conclusion includes recommendations for further theory development and research on this vital topic.

Author Bio(s)

Mark Davidheiser, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution and Anthropology at Nova Southeastern University. He has studied conflict transformation at multiple institutions, been trained as a mediator and an intercultural negotiator, volunteered as a mediator in a Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program, and assisted in the training of prospective mediators. His field research has examined conflict management and mediation in the Navajo Nation, Eritrea, the Gambia, and Senegal. Additional areas of expertise include African studies, Islamic African societies, development, displacement and resettlement, and education. Dr. Davidheiser is proficient in German, Spanish, Mandinka, and Arabic. He may be reached at davidhei@nsu.nova.edu.


conflict mediation, cultural variation, ethnolinguistic groups, mediation process, Republic of The Gambia

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