Article Title

What We Don't Know Can Help Us: Eliciting Out-of-Discipline Knowledge for Work with Intractable Conflicts


In this article, the authors present the results of a study in which a diverse variety of experts in fields outside the traditional conflict domain were interviewed about their ideas regarding intractable conflicts. The purpose of this study was to gather frame-breaking insights and practical approaches that could shed new light on complex, persistent conflict that has been particularly resistant to resolution. The authors argue that outsiders to the field are more likely to provide fresh perspective and radical approaches to the conflict field’s most intransigent problems because they are not constrained by the field’s pre-existing normative frames. This article examines some of their findings—from ideas on how globalization has exacerbated intractable conflicts, to ways that Biblical metaphors can be used to promote reconciliation, to an analysis of how philosophical concepts such as morality and impartiality can be used to produce fair outcomes, to ideas on the creation of an independent, international regional facilitation corps. In addition to a summary of content findings, methodological recommendations for future similar studies are offered.

Author Bio(s)

Jennifer S. Goldman is a PhD candidate in Social-Organizational Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University and a Graduate Fellow with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Her research focuses on the role that humiliation plays in perpetuating intractable conflict. Prior to her doctoral work, Ms. Goldman served as the Director of Negotiation Programs at Mediation Works Incorporated, a dispute resolution organization based in Boston. She holds a B.A. with honors from Tufts University and an M.A. in Social-Organizational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. She can be contacted at jsg2019@columbia.edu.

Peter T. Coleman, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and Director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution. He was the first recipient of the Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association, Division 48: Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence. He co-edited The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice (2000; 2006), and has authored over forty journal articles and chapters.

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