After some time of silence on this blog – you can now find me usually over on the Kluwer Mediation blog: http://kluwermediationblog.com/author/ianmacduff/ – I will simply note here a couple of graduate programmes that may be of interest to anyone who may still be following. First, the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñati, in the Basque Country, offers a well-established international Masters in the Sociology of Law. I’ll upload the brochure for the next academic year’s programme. Second, the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona has a Masters in Conflictology, run in conjunction with the UN Institute for Training and Research. I will also upload the brochure for this programme. UNITAR_UOC Brochure (final) 2_light As I maintain my links with both of these programmes, I do offer a personal recommendation!
Archive for the ‘Negotiation’ Category
After some time of silence on this blog – you can now find me usually over on the Kluwer Mediation blog: http://kluwermediationblog.com/author/ianmacduff/ – I will simply note here a couple of graduate programmes hats may be of interest to anyone who may still be following. First, the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñati, in the Basque Country, offers a well-established international Masters in the Sociology of Law. I’ll upload the brochure for the next academic year’s programme.
Second, the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona has a Masters in Conflictology, run in conjunction with the UN Institute for Training and Research. I will also upload the brochure for this programme. UNITAR_UOC Brochure (final) 2_light
As I maintain my links with both of these programmes, I do offer a personal recommendation!
After some time of silence on this blog – you can now find me usually over on the Kluwer Mediation blog: http://kluwermediationblog.com/author/ianmacduff/ – I will simply note here a couple of graduate programmes hats may be of interest to anyone who may still be following.
First, the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñati, in the Basque Country, offers a well-established international Masters in the Sociology of Law. I’ll upload the brochure for the next academic year’s programme.
Second, the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona has a Masters in Conflictology, run in conjunction with the UN Institute for Training and Research. I will also upload the brochure for this programme.
As I maintain my links with both of these programmes, I do offer a personal recommendation!
Close to 20 years ago (in fact, in 1995) a group of us met in Cambridge, MA, under the auspices of the Program on Negotiation’s public/practice offshoot, to talk about just one question, roughly paraphrased – what’s left of the “Harvard model” of negotiation once you add culture? In part this was a response to the concerns expressed by critical commentators that this supposedly neutral process of negotiation was, in reality, a cultural model in its own right. We can date that meeting tragically, as Jeff Rubin, one of the participants, died in a mountaineering accident the following weekend.
No report ever came out of that meeting; but we can see the burgeoning literature on culture, conflict and negotiation as continuing the conversation.
It’s interesting to recall, however, the one simple conclusion was reached as to the impact of culture on this core (Western) model of negotiation: people need to tell their stories. And the task of negotiators – and mediators – is to attend, to respect, to challenge those stories; to modify their own; and jointly – in the kind of metaphor used by John Paul Lederach – to weave solutions out of those narratives.
None of this will come as a surprise to practitioners of narrative mediation and the work of John Winslade and colleagues, in which the narratives of a conflict lie at the heart of understand and transforming a conflict.
It’s also recognised that we spin stories, augment the truth, deceive even ourselves in recounting the “truth” of conflict. See, for example, this blog by Cinnie Noble: http://www.adrhub.com/profiles/blogs/true-or-not-so-true-conflict-story-telling.
The point of this note is partly just recall that challenge to the model that has become so central to contemporary negotiation practice – and to note, as far as I’m aware, that nothing ever became of the conclusion. It’s partly also to link negotiation and, even more so, mediation, with the “narrative gift” which Jerome Bruner sees as not only central to how we make sense of the world but also as “one of the principal forms of peacekeeping.” (Acts of Meaning, Cambridge, MA, Harvard U.P., 1990; p.95).
Three aspects of narratives or stories at least can be linked to dispute resolution and transformation practice:
- first, the existential foundation, the recognition that we do, and need to tell stories, to construct a narrative reality (taken to quasi-fictional extremes by Bruce Chatwin in his The Song Lines, and his view of the Australian Aboriginal world sung into existence).As Eli Wiesel comments:
“Our lives are rooted in story. Our stories are our lives. We find out who we are by the stories we tell and are told. The lives we live and the conflicts we embrace are held together by motif and myth. If we are to gain a sense of who we are, where we stand in the world, what our relationship in and with the world is to be, then we must see how our story works. A story is a way to articulate what it is we are living through and how the world lives in us as we live in it … Stories give meaning to common and shared experience.” [Eli Wiesel, quoted in J. Elkins, “The quest for meaning: narrative accounts of legal education,” Jnl of Legal Education v. 38 (Dec. ’88) p. 577-98]
- second, the process aspect: the implication of the first point necessarily is that if stories are what people come with, this is the material we work with; and
- third, the socio-political, hermeneutic dimension, recognising that negotiations are part of the ongoing contraction of social meaning and, to crank this up a level or two, can form part of the kind of deliberative dialogue, civic conversations, democratic iterations, public reason . . . or whatever the preferred term, that writers like Habermas, Kingwell, Benhabib, Sen, and Appiah promote, with differing emphases and arguments, but with the same core idea of the essential, political and constructive role of dialogue. There’s a hoped-for dimension to this too – in that much of the underlying political concern is that there is a lack of civil and deliberative dialogue – so, in that sense, the job is to recover and reinvent the tools of collective narrative; and in this respect, the role of dispute resolution processes is not merely to work with existing narratives but also – more so? – to build that capacity for constructive dialogue.
If, then, people want to tell their stories – and it’s a conclusion amply sustained by the long story-telling traditions of surely every society and culture – then we can look in two directions to work with that material: one, is to look at the narratives people bring to current negotiations and mediations, as the material to work with; the other is to take that foundational resource and turn it to the optimistic and participatory goals that inform cosmopolitan (Beck, Appiah) and democratic (Benhabib, Habermas, Kingwell) writers.
Newsletter 4 | December 2011
Vol. 2, no. 2 – New issue!
The Journal of Conflictology has just published its latest issue at http://joc.uoc.edu. We invite you to visit our website to view the articles and book reviews of interest. For the first time, these are now also available as ePUB files (compatible with e-readers).
On the occasion of this year’s elections in Nigeria, the issue opens with an interview delivered by the Nigerian political scientist Sadeeque Abubakar Abba. The second contribution by Ubong Essien Umoh and Idara Godwin Udoh employs linguistic theory to explain the use of the numerous adjectives used when we talk about â€œpeaceâ€:
qualifiers such as “positive”, “warm”, or “conditional”, the authors argue, are employed by peace scholars as peace means different things to different people. Suggesting that thought is influenced by the availability of appropriate words in a given cultural context, they conclude that to examine the discourse of peace is an excellent way to look at the limits of our understandings thereof. In his article Bryan Nykon takes a closer look at the influence of feature films on our beliefs in the legitimacy of violence. Drawing on the knowledge of conflict dynamics, he puts forward a number of specific suggestions of how to develop humanizing elements within films.
Transitional justice is the topic of Padraig McAuliffe’s article. In critically assessing the use of transitional justice mechanisms, he stresses the value of paradigmatic transitions sensitive to local conditions. Paul van Tongeren presents a policy brief on infrastructures for peace, which have received growing attention due to predictions that political violence will increase in the near future. Such structures to deal adequately with ongoing or potential violent conflicts are lacking in many instances and have successfully been built up in a number of countries, as the policy brief shows.
The development of the idea of ombudsing is traced in the issue’s PIONEER section, which reflects on the multicultural antecedents and especially the Scandinavian origins of the nowadays more and more popular practice. Finally, this issue’s PROFILE presents the work of Mediators Beyond Borders, an NGO supporting local peace building capacities in underserved areas and advocating the use of mediation in public policy disputes.
This post serves merely to provide a link to Robert Benjamin’s new article on mediate.com, commenting on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s negotiation that led to the recent passage of the New York Marriage Equality Act. The article is valuable (and of course isn’t about “mediation in Asia”) because of Bob’s analysis of Gov. Cuomo’s partisan negotiation process (this was no neutral mediation!); and because of the important parallel point that the tools of negotiation and mediation go well beyond dispute resolution and private settlement, and instead have a well-established role in rule-making, consensus building and civic conversation and civic literacy. Quite apart from the specific and successful example of political negotiation in a highly contentious area of gay equality rights, the promising larger point here is about the potential of negotiation in fostering dialogue and civic conversations. And as the Cuomo’s example shows, there’s a huge value in strong leadership.
The title of this post is a messy play on Clifford Geertz’s essay, “Being There, Writing Here” in Harper’s Magazine in March 1988, pp 32-37. Part of the point of that article, and of Geertz’s interpretive anthropology, was that social observers face the dilemma of making their empirical observations (of another’s culture, in particular) ‘on location’, but returning to the familiar spaces of home to do the writing – and facing the interpretive dilemmas of that other world and one’s own.
The strained parallel I want to draw involves the mediation, negotiation, or dispute resolution trainer with his or her bag of tricks developed in one context, training and consulting in another, and at times caught in the cognitive, interpretive limbo of being neither here nor there (a notion also made perhaps more famous by Bill Bryson in a book of that title).
This question comes to mind in thinking about student responses – here in Singapore – to two negotiation training reources (for want of a better word) – tools that many other trainers will be familiar with, and which served not only the same familiar purposes but also added some intercultural colour to our reflections.
First, I showed the film Twelve Angry Men – the classic, Henry Fonda version. I’ve done this for classes in New Zealand, and the class here elicited many of the same responses to Juror #8’s techniques of influence: the use of doubt; the insistence on talking (“we need to talk”); the review of evidence; occasional personal connections with individual jurors; coalition building strategies; targeting persuasion; moral and legal persuasion (through affirmation of the role of the jury); and so on. They also discussed the possible impact of seating arrangements – i.e. sitting opposite each other as a possible source of perceptions of opposition. (It should also be noted that trial by jury was abolished in Singapore by the former Chief Justice some years ago.)
In later individual and class blog comments, students also wondered what a different version of the film might look like: Twelve Angry Asian Men. Amongst the comments and reflections:
- it would be unlikely to be ‘angry’ men – other than the Bruce Lee type of film (martial arts) you’re not likely to see displays of anger and overt aggression;
- it would be unlikely to cast characters whose principal mode of operation was the display of emotion (e.g. Juror #3 – the last to ‘fall’);
- nor would you show open displays of prejudice or racial hostility;
- interactions would be – for the large part – focused on the preservation of ‘face’ in the decision-making process (both face-giving and -saving: own and other);
- there would be greater overt deference to age and seniority;
- decision-making would be very concerned with building quiet consensus; and
- contradiction – as a strategy – would be largely avoided.
Probably not the makings of a box-office triumph!
Second, I use the ladder of inference as a framework for exploring the patterns of perception, interpretation, assumptions, and action – as the originators of the model indicate, it’s a descriptive framework as well as being an analytical tool. It is also the basis for introducing the twin tools of advocacy and inquiry. So far so good . . . all of that made sense; it was readily applied in a couple of brief examples.
But . . . back came the now familiar question: would this really work here in Asia? And especially would the apparent directness of both advocacy and inquiry work in societies where there is a preference for the elliptical, for the unstated but mutually understood (in a high context world)? Would it not seem too pushy, too “Western” to want to dig beneath one’s negotiation counterpart’s thinking, through inquiry, in order to understand their thinking? And would it not seem equally blunt to advocate one’s perceptions and preferences by laying out the foundations of one’s thinking (surely, it seems, this should be implied, inferred, understood . . . but not necessarily articulated)?
And, given the research (especially Nisbett and his colleagues on comparative cognition and perception) these questions are probably on target. This doesn’t mean, I think, that models and tools such as the ladder of inference need to be left at home: they do still travel well, but when they arrive in a different location, they probably take on a different meaning, and evoke or require new strategies. Inquiry and advocacy are still possible – but in the style and language understood in the new location.