ICCS Seminar Series: 'Empathy Dynamics in Conflict Transformation'

Monday 4th November 2013 (17:00-18:30)

R.S.V.P. to Leigh-Ann Cragg: l.knowles@bham.ac.uk

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Monday 4th

November 2013, 5-6.30pm

420 Muirhead Tower


Our talk will report a case study of empathy in conflict transformation and peace building initiatives in northern Kenya, implemented as part of the Conflict Sensitivity Consortium and Diocese of Maralal Integrated Peace and Livelihood project (funded by CAFOD).

The three pastoralist communities in the area have a long history of cattle raiding, which escalated in recent years because of the availability of guns, initially for protection but increasingly used for revenge and attack, resulting in 40-50 deaths per year over the period 2005-10. Conflict transformation initiatives have reduced this to only sporadic incidents in the last two years.

We visited the area in March 2012 to collect interviews with project leaders and key players as part of the ESRC-funded research project, ‘Living with Uncertainty’, which is investigating the dynamics of empathy and dialogue in response to violence. Interviewees described their lives before, during and after conflict events. The data is analysed in terms of the relations between individuals (the dynamics of empathy) and knock-on effects to relations between groups (across communities or intra-tribal age-groups). Findings show how micro-level interactions and dialogues contribute to building longer-term trust and social empathy, and how imaginative conflict transformation creates and uses affordances for such interactions to take place successfully.

Professor Lynne Cameron is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Open University and ESRC Global Uncertainties Research Fellow. Her current project under this programme is ‘Living with Uncertainty: Metaphor and the dynamics of empathy”, which is constructing a new model of empathy in dialogue and interaction, using findings from empirical studies in UK, USA, and Brazil. The model is dynamic and multi-level, connecting emotion-based responses in face-to-face interaction with longer term individual and social processes of understanding the Other, and shifts in perceived relations between Self and Other. The first version of the model was developed through analysis of post-conflict reconciliation conversations between Patrick Magee, the former IRA bomber, and Jo Berry, whose father was killed in the Brighton bombing in 1984. This study is reported in Metaphor and Reconciliation (Cameron, 2011). Ideas from the project are disseminated on The Empathy Blog.

Simon Weatherbed is Programme Director for Responding to Conflict (RTC). He is responsible for ensuring the delivery of RTC's work, developing new programmes and for building and maintaining relationships with RTC's partners and funders. He has worked all around the world, including in Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Somalia. His work spans project design and management, strategic planning, coordination, fundraising, research, and education in the contexts of war and post-war transitions