Conferences, Workshops and Seminars

Select conference papers presented:

Conflict Research Society Annual Conference, Coventry, September 2012

Trust, Empathy, and Dialogue: the art of possibility and the ‘moral imagination'

Presenter: Naomi Head (University of Glasgow)


The need to open our imaginations as well as our minds when it comes to thinking about constructive social change and breaking cycles of violence has been eloquently articulated by John Paul Lederach in his call for the development of the ‘moral imagination’ in conflict transformation.

In what might be considered as an appeal for such imaginative thinking in the sphere of international relations, former U.S. Ambassador John Limbert said in relation to the ongoing debate over Iran’s nuclear programme in March 2011 that “We used sanctions because it is a tool that we know. Changing the unproductive relationship that we’ve had with Iran for the last 30 years, now that we do not know how to do”.  Imposing harsher sanctions, however, coupled with the continuing and escalating threat of the use of military force, contributes, I argue, to the cycle of violence without providing a means to transcend it.  Considering the ‘moral imagination’ as a guiding light in the architecture of conflict transformation, this paper suggests that the concepts of trust, empathy, and dialogue offer a creative, dynamic, and flexible language with which to contribute towards creative approaches to conflict transformation in the international sphere.

The paper explores and develops the notion that trust, empathy, and dialogue operate as a dynamic, multi-level, and relational framework through which alternative political pathways may be explored and whereby actors are invited to imagine the ‘art of the possible’.