'An encounter with empathy: normalisation or resistance? The case of Israel and Palestine'
Dr Naomi Head
Monday 20th Jaunary 2014, 5-6.30pm
420 Muirhead Tower
The questions I explore through encounters with Israelis and Palestinians address the dynamics of empathy and dialogue in the context of protracted conflict. Focusing on civil society and grassroots organisations working actively with principles of non-violence, I examine what definitions of empathy people might hold, where they differ and why. How far do explanations of structural and cultural violence account for obstacles to developing empathy and dialogue? How important are these concepts for shaping attitudes towards the conflict and to what degree does their presence/absence inform narratives of resistance and transformation? How might empathy be circulated, reciprocated, blocked, and how resilient are these processes? These questions have contributed to the identification of a number of key themes that relate to the mapping of the dynamics of empathy. Insights from the field illustrate that the focus on lived experiences of empathy contribute towards challenging some of the dominant narratives surrounding empathy in academic literature and contribute to exploring empathy as a practice of both non-violent resistance and of normalisation.
Dr Naomi Head is a Lecturer in Politics at the University of Glasgow and an Honorary Research Fellow at ICCS. Her research focuses on the role of communication in conflict and the relationships between dialogue, empathy and conflict. Funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, she is currently conducting research on the dynamics of empathy and dialogue in protracted conflict in Israel and Palestine as well as on the Iranian nuclear negotiations. She recently authored a monograph, Justifying Violence: Communicative Ethics and the use of force in Kosovo (MUP, 2012) and has published articles in Politics, the Journal of Global Ethics, and the International Journal of Peace Studies.