Empathic mutual positioning in conflict transformation and reconciliation

Seu, Irene Bruna and Cameron, Lynne (2013). Empathic mutual positioning in conflict transformation and reconciliation. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 19(3) pp. 266–280.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0033687

Abstract

We employ Positioning Theory in a reanalysis of data from postconflict reconciliation conversations between Jo Berry, whose father was killed in an IRA bombing, and Patrick Magee, who planted the bomb. The analysis shows how discourse activity simultaneously positions not just the Self and the Other as individuals, but also in dialogic relation to each other, whereby multilayered identities are revealed, negotiated, and shifted. This article has several aims. First, it introduces the new construct, Empathic Mutual Positioning, to describe a key dynamic in reconciliation through which mutual recognition and understanding is made possible for both speakers. It shows how Empathic Mutual Positioning drives the process of reconciliation, and how it evolves and changes as conciliation proceeds. The article illustrates the three functions of Empathic Mutual Positioning: expansive, embracing, and reflexive, and it argues that Empathic Mutual Positioning is a key, distinctive, and essential component in reconciliation processes. As an intentional commitment to conciliation it operates as a force, but it is also a dynamic psychic process in that it changes the people involved while unfolding. Second, the article discusses the potential benefits of applying Empathic Mutual Positioning as a strategic approach to conciliation by mediators engaged in reconciliation practice. Mediators can encourage, support, or exploit Empathic Mutual Positioning to scaffold the process and support participants at difficult points in the conciliation. Finally, it discusses how this new concept, Empathic Mutual Positioning, relates to the Positioning-Interests-Needs model widely used in mediated practical work in conflict resolution/transformation.

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