Symbolic interactionism : the role of interaction in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2009.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict began when Israel came into existence in 1948. Deep divisions exist over how to solve the conflict that encompasses cultural, religious, and political differences, in addition to territorial and natural resource disputes. The conflict persists today, despite decades of attempts to broker peace. While a two-state solution remains at the forefront of a potential resolution, neither party has been able to reach a satisfactory consensus. Interaction between Israel and Palestine has not produced a successful, mutually beneficial solution. This thesis examines the role of interaction, and how misinterpretation of actions, contributes to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.; Conflict is defined as a competitive or opposing action of incompatibles; an antagonistic state or action (as divergent ideas, interests, or persons); or a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands (Merriem Webster, 2009). Conflict between individuals and groups has been around since the beginning of time and has been the subject of much academic study in the last century. Social theorists have produced a collection of theories that discuss the many facets of conflict. Such dominant classical and social theorists include Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer. These prominent sociologists were pioneers in their work on the study on conflict, or conflict theory.; Conflict theory emphasizes the concept of conflict in human society. It focuses on what causes conflict to emerge in a particular society and tries to account for the continuation of social order in a society that has accepted norms, values, customs, traditions, and rules (Ragunathan, 2006). Conflict theory materialized from the sociological study of social order and social stability and encompasses a wide variety of modes of conflict, including warfare and revolution, strikes, domination, to name a few. All of the modes in modern conflict theory rest on four primary assumptions that state that competition, structural inequality, revolution and war are all inherent in society and are associated with how and why conflict emerges.; Conflict is a broad concept. Sociologists have studied the concept from differing perspectives to examine how conflict arises and what circumstances in a given society are more or less conditioned towards engaging in conflict (Collins, 1974). Conflict presupposes that individuals or groups are interacting; thus the study of interaction on a more abstract level might assist in further uncovering the roots of conflict. If interaction were always positive and ended with a consensual outcome, conflict in its purest form, would cease to exist. Because this is not the case in today's world, understanding conflict remains of utmost relevance. I posit that by exploring forms of interaction prior to an outcome such as conflict arising, societies might be better geared to work toward consensus, or peace. Symbolic interactionism is one theoretical framework that is useful in exploring the origins of conflict.; Symbolic interactionism posits that social participants in a social situation are constantly negotiating a shared definition of the situation, taking one another's viewpoints into account, and interpreting each other's behavior prior to implementing an action--has value for studying conflict. Based in sociological theory, symbolic interactionism speaks to how parties can reach consensus--through a humanistic approach and willingness to see actions via the eyes of the actor carrying out the action, the receiving party can better interpret intentions and motivations. Ascribed meanings to objects and interpretation serve as the lynchpin for successful communication. This study posits that in instances where these basic conditions are unmet, eventually such high levels of misinterpretation continue to the point that communication devolves into conflict. Collectives then sometimes turn to violence as a means of voicing their opposition. Violence indicates the ultimate breakdown of communication.; Symbolic interactionism presents a commonsensical approach to analyzing how two parties interpret each other's actions. What the theory omits, though, is an explanation of how repeated, exacerbated misinterpretation gives way to conflict. The aim of this research is to apply the tenets of symbolic interactionism to see if the theory can contribute to understanding the root of conflict, why it arises, and what symbolic interaction might propose for repairing communication in times of conflict. How can two parties compromise to reach a shared meaning of objects? How can cyclical misinterpretation be resolved? Are new interpretations possible or does history triumph over the hope of the future?; Mired in conflict since the inception of Israel in 1948, the societies that make up Israel and Palestine consistently interact in such a way that conflict persists. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is distinct in that it involves many complex layers that cannot all be examined at once, or through one conceptual framework. Symbolic interactionism however, sheds light on how misinterpretation, vice interpretation, of one party's actions can lead to an exacerbated state, laying the seeds for conflict.; The focus of this study is to analyze how misinterpretation has perpetuated this conflict. The actors involved on both sides attribute different meanings to the same object, idea, or event, leading to a misinterpretation of actions undertaken. Dissimilar, mistrusting attitudes emerge and communication breaks down. Israeli has claimed that their benevolent actions are being misinterpreted by the Palestinians as being disingenuous. In return, Palestinians react in a purported defensive way, which the Israeli's subsequently interpret as aggressive. The cycle of conflict continues thusly.
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