Extreme Religious Intergroup Conflict Responses

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Extreme Religious Intergroup Conflict

People follow religion as a guide and often times have issues with people who have different viewpoints. Within being in a group, understanding that a group has its own identity.  Religion answers the individuals need for belonging  . Conflict may arise when the debate is between religion on intergroup when there is a disagreement between what is true and what is untrue (Seul, 1999).  Religion is believed to help to "stabilize"  and help to the identity  of groups and individuals as some need something to follow. 

Within any group, there will be some type of conflict. Whether it is that someone does not agree with what you are saying or if one has an issue with how one is articulating their point. Either way, a conflict is bound to happen.  Although not as extreme as some other reasons for conflict, lack of resources is a big deal within some groups. How can a group function without resources. I think of churches that struggle financially and the means that they have to go through in order to keep the doors open. We often times fail to see what happens by the scenes and that the lack of resources ultimately can result in churches closing. Another contributing factor to conflict is identity competition. There is nothing worse than people being in competition with each other when we all have the same purpose and drive within the group. 

Being able to listen to one another and really recognizing that people within the same group are all here for the same purpose. Understanding that working as a group is better than working as an individual . Effectively listening and communicating ones point of view may also eliminate the need for identity competition.


Seul, J. R. (1999). ‘Ours is the way of God’: Religion, identity, and intergroup conflict. Journal of Peace Research, 36(5), 553–569.
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journal of peace R E S E A R C H © 1999 Journal of Peace Research vol. 36, no. 5, 1999, pp. 553–569 Sage Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi) [0022-3433 (199909) 36:5; 553–569; 009491] ‘Ours is the Way of God’: Religion, Identity, and Intergroup Conflict* JEFFREY R. SEUL Harvard Law School According to social identity theory, identity competition plays a central role in the inception and escalation of intergroup conflict, even when economic and political factors also are at play. Individual and group identity competition is considered a byproduct of individuals’ efforts to satisfy basic human needs, including various psychological needs. Religions often serve these psychological needs more comprehensively and potently than other repositories of cultural meaning that contribute to the construction and maintenance of individual and group identities. Religions frequently supply cosmologies, moral frameworks, institutions, rituals, traditions, and other identity-supporting content that answers to individuals’ needs for psychological stability in the form of a predictable world, a sense of belonging, selfesteem, and even self-actualization. The peculiar ability of religion to serve the human identity impulse thus may partially explain why intergroup conflict so frequently occurs along religious fault lines. Introduction Examples of violent conflict between religious groups – the Balkans, Sudan, East Timor, and Sri Lanka, to name but a few – spring readily to mind. This article offers a partial explanation of the frequent appearance of religion as the primary cultural marker distinguishing groups in conflict. The approach is interdisciplinary. In the first major section, I provide a general explanation of individual and group identity * I thank Cynthia Chataway, Sue Cross, Fr. Thomas Keating, OCSO, Herbert Kelman, David Little, Michael Moffitt, Kathleen Pakos, Tim Seul, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, and the anonymous JPR referees for their helpful comments. Responsibility for the article, however, rests entirely with the author. The author can be reached by e-mail at jseul@law.harvard.edu. The quoted material in the title is from a statement made by Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, President of the Chechnyan separatists (Specter, 1996). dynamics, and their role in intergroup conflict, from the perspectives of social psychology and psychologically-informed international relations theory. Subsequent sections draw from the disciplines of religious studies and the sociology of religion to demonstrate the ways in which religion powerfully serves individual and group identity needs and to explain how this fact may account for the frequent entanglement of religion with intergroup conflict. A Social–Psychological Perspective on Identity and Identity Conflict Psychologists and other social scientists of diverse orientations have developed a variety of theories regarding the development and functions of individual and group 553 Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 554 journal of P E A C E R E S E A RC H volume 36 / number 5 / september 1999 identity – that is, the more or less ‘enduring aspects’ of a person’s or group’s self-definition (Kelman, 1998: 3). In particular, much social psychological research sheds light on the ways in which individuals’ efforts to establish and maintain secure identities can produce conflict between groups. Individual Identity ‘Individual identity’, as I use it here, refers to the relatively stable elements of an individual’s sense of self. A Framework for Understanding Identity: Why, What, and How Within social psychology, it is common to distinguish between individual and group identity. The two levels of analysis are integrally and reciprocally related, with the purposes and processes of individual identity formation influencing and informing those of group identity formation, and vice versa. I make use of this distinction for analytical purposes, briefly exploring individual and group identity by subjecting each to the three simple interrogatives why, what, and how. With respect to individual identity, I ask: Many theorists link the initial impulse to construct a secure sense of self to the survival instinct of the infant, as did Freud and Mead (Bloom, 1990; Breakwell, 1986). As one develops, and assuming one gains in confidence that physical needs will be met, increasing energy is devoted to the satisfaction of the higher-order needs first systematically identified and discussed by Abraham Maslow (1954/1970). These needs include the need for psychological security in the form of a predictable world, and the need for love (or belonging), self-esteem, and selfactualization. Needs theory has become a cornerstone of much theoretical and applied work in the field of conflict resolution (see Mitchell, 1990). Individuals seek ‘continuity across time and situation’ (Breakwell, 1986: 24) to reduce uncertainty in social affairs (Stein, 1996), which contributes to psychological stability. People generally wish to regard themselves favorably (Eiser & Smith, 1972; Goffman, 1963). Efforts to achieve a sense of connection or belonging, self-esteem and even self-actualization help people establish and maintain positive, secure identities (Bloom, 1990; Breakwell, 1986; Stein, 1996). Failure to establish or maintain a relatively secure identity produces severe psychological discomfort, or even a total personality breakdown, which may be experienced by the individual as a threat to survival (Bloom, 1990). • • • Why do so many individuals strive to develop and maintain a secure sense of self ? What is the content of an individual’s identity? How is individual identity constructed and maintained? Similarly, with respect to group identity, I ask: • • • Why do so many groups strive to positively distinguish themselves from other groups? What is the content of a group’s identity? How is a group’s identity constructed, maintained, and transmitted among its members? This why, what, and how framework serves as an organizing principle throughout my discussion of individual and group identity, on the one hand, and the relationship between religion, identity, and conflict, on the other. • • Why do so many individuals strive to develop and maintain a secure sense of self ? What is the content of an individual’s identity? Each of us carries the psychological equiv- Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 Jeffrey R. Seul R E L I G I O N , I D E N T I T Y, alent of an identity card. The contents of these ‘identity cards’ define one’s identity at a given point in time. The contents consist of one’s values, motives, emotions, feelings, attitudes, thoughts, goals, aspirations, and the like, on the one hand, and one’s group memberships, social influence, social interaction patterns, and roles, on the other (Breakwell, 1986: 16). Some of the contents of one’s identity typically change over time as a result of developmental dynamics and social influences. New experiences often challenge us to reassess the relative valuations of the entries on our identity cards and, indeed, to assess whether particular content should be retained at all. Individuals typically assign positive or negative value to the elements of their identities, and these valuations are subject to revision (Breakwell, 1986). Individual identity is ‘fluid, dynamic, and responsive to its social context’ (Breakwell, 1986: 19). While it may be true that ‘no component [of individual identity] has a constant value’ (Breakwell, 1986: 19), it also is true that individual identity typically is characterized by a relatively high degree of temporal and situational stability. Key elements of one’s identity are likely to be retained over long periods of time, and the relative values of these particular elements often remain reasonably stable even as new elements are added and existing ones are abandoned or devalued (Kelman, 1998). Naturally, some of the content of one’s identity will be much more highly valued than other content – it will be nearer the individual’s core, to what one considers oneself essentially to be. It therefore will be much harder to dispose of or subordinate to other elements in the course of the ongoing evolution of one’s identity. • How is individual identity constructed and maintained? AND I N T E RG RO U P C O N F L I C T Individuals seek to achieve and maintain positive social identities through various types of social interaction. Kelman (1998) conceives of the patterns of social interaction through which identities are constructed in terms of three different processes of social influence: compliance, identification, and internalization. Compliance occurs when an individual conforms to another’s expectations or demands in order to secure favorable regard or treatment, as when a child obeys a parent, or an adult prisoner her captors, to avoid punishment. Compliance behavior contributes to identity formation to the extent that one progressively incorporates aspects of one’s compliance-induced self-presentation into one’s self-concept. Identification involves adoption of the behavior of another person or a group because association with that person or group helps to satisfy the individual’s need to establish a positive self-concept. Through identification, individuals vicariously participate in others’ pre-established identities, often ‘gain[ing] a sense of power and status that, as individuals, they lack’ (Kelman, 1998: 13). The teenager who joins a gang is one example of this behavior. Finally, internalization occurs when one aligns oneself with others and adopts aspects of their behavior because it is consistent with one’s own values; for example, when an adult abandons his parents’ political party affiliation for a new affiliation that is more consistent with his current opinions and commitments. Each of these processes implies a more meaningful degree of agency than its predecessor. Where internalization occurs, one does not align one’s own identity with that of another person or group primarily because doing so has instrumental value (as is the case with both compliance and identification), but because it flows naturally from one’s own value orientation. Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 555 556 journal of P E A C E R E S E A RC H Group Identity According to social identity theory, our interpersonal relationships, particularly in the context of the groups in which we participate, are central to the project of achieving a secure and positively-valued sense of self. Individuals seek a secure sense of self by ‘striv[ing] to achieve or to maintain positive social identity’ (Tajfel & Turner, 1986: 16). A group is a self-defining collection of individuals. Like an individual, a group can be said to have an identity of its own. That identity is borne and communicated by the group’s members, but it cannot be thought of as a composite of the members’ respective individual identities, any more than an individual’s identity can be conceived of merely as a composite of the identities of the various groups to which one belongs. • Why do so many groups strive to positively distinguish themselves from other groups? Group identity is, in essence, a manifestation of the individual identity impulse. As noted, individuals seek to satisfy their desire for positive evaluation, in part, through their participation in groups. In the process, groups generate collective purposes and goals, the achievement of which is important to the maintenance of group identity and to the group’s survival. In this limited sense we could say that there also is a group-level identity impulse – a collective motivation to serve the purposes and goals on which the members’ individual identities, and the survival of the group, depend. • What is the content of a group’s identity? The group’s identity consists of the members’ shared ‘conception of its enduring characteristics and basic values, its strengths and weaknesses, its hopes and fears, its reputation and conditions of existence, its institutions and traditions, its past history, volume 36 / number 5 / september 1999 current purposes, and future prospects’ (Kelman, 1998: 16). The group’s institutions, traditions, and history often find embodiment in writing or other material forms which communicate and preserve the group’s identity independently of the individuals that presently comprise the group. As will be explained subsequently, this is powerfully true with respect to most religious groups. • How is a group’s identity constructed, maintained, and transmitted among its members? Various socialization and mobilization processes are the means by which this content is transmitted to and internalized by group members. These include group-specific variations of Kelman’s three processes of social influence. Like individual identity, group identity is fluid and dynamic. It ‘typically represents a combination of historical realities and deliberate mobilization’ in response to a current event or circumstance (Kelman, 1998: 17). Levels of involvement and emotional commitment may differ widely among the group’s members. Identity and Intergroup Conflict Each group with which a given individual is or is not associated is positively or negatively1 evaluated both by that individual and by other individuals and groups. Whether one regards one’s social identity positively 1 Much of the social identity theory literature suggests that negative evaluation of others is inevitable if one is to succeed in constructing and maintaining a positive identity. Although negative evaluation of others is pervasive, I have difficulty accepting that it is inevitable, particularly with respect to the maintenance of a secure identity among mature adults, and particularly if ‘negative’ connotes prejudice or condemnation, as opposed to mere preference, the absence of a sense of affinity, or forms of disapproval that respect the essential humanity of the individual or group which is evaluated negatively. Achieving a sense of genuine distinctiveness is critical to the construction and maintenance of positive identity, but ‘distinctive’ need not be heavily value laden – at least not in the extreme sense of good versus evil. Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 Jeffrey R. Seul R E L I G I O N , I D E N T I T Y, depends, to a significant extent, upon how favorably the group(s) with which one identifies compare to other groups. The process of intergroup comparison produces a competitive dynamic in which groups attempt to enhance their identities relative to other groups. ‘The attempt to achieve a comparatively superior position for the in-group, on the basis of valued dimensions, is the key factor leading to discriminatory intergroup behavior’ (Tajfel & Turner, 1986: 83). When individuals do not regard their social identity positively, they respond to the resulting psychological discomfort with one or more individual- or group-level strategies to establish positive identity, depending upon whether group members perceive alternatives to the existing intergroup situation. Group members typically must believe that their situation vis-a-vis another group can be improved, or there will be no group-level response to the situation (Taylor & Moghaddam, 1994). Where alternatives to the present situation are perceived by a group’s members, a group-level response is likely.2 The group will respond to its current, inadequate social identity in one of several ways, ranging from efforts to assimilate itself into the relevant out-group, at one extreme, to a direct challenge to the out-group, at the other. The former strategy amounts to a conscious relinquishment or, at a minimum, dilution of group identity. However, each of the other possible responses involves an effort to enhance and strengthen group identity.3 Attempts to enhance group status 2 Where cognitive alternatives to the current intergroup situation are not perceived, individual-level responses to the psychological discomfort associated with negatively evaluated social identity will follow. Where possible, individuals may leave the group. Otherwise, intragroup comparison will intensify (Taylor & Moghaddam, 1994). 3 These responses include (a) threats or direct challenges to the out-group or its members; (b) recasting the ingroup’s negatively evaluated characteristic in a positive light (e.g. ‘Black is beautiful’); and (c) ‘creation and adoption of new dimensions for intergroup comparison’, such AND I N T E RG RO U P C O N F L I C T are likely when exit from a group is very difficult or impossible, as is the case when social identity is based to any significant extent upon persistent social constructions (e.g. surrounding the color of one’s skin) or, for many, when it involves religious convictions and affiliations. While relative deprivation is undoubtedly a key factor in much intergroup conflict (Stein, 1996), it appears that incompatible interests in the form of an uneven distribution of material or social resources may lead to intergroup conflict only where the subordinate group views the dominant group as relevant for purposes of social comparison and begins to develop a positive identity in relation to it (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Incompatible interests may be the apparent cause of conflict in many cases, but conflict arguably will not occur in the absence of intergroup identity competition. While there is no reason to believe that intergroup differentiation inevitably leads to conflict, Tajfel & Turner (1986: 23) consider it ‘plausible to hypothesize that, when a group’s action for positive distinctiveness is frustrated, impeded, or in any way actively prevented by an out-group, this will promote overt conflict and hostility between the groups’, and that this may be so even in the absence of incompatible group interests. When intergroup comparison does produce overt conflict, an escalatory dynamic often is evident. Because individual identity is partially dependent upon the integrity of the in-group’s identity, threats to the in-group are experienced as threats to individual identity (Bloom, 1990). Conversely, threats to the identity of individual group members often will be perceived as threats to the group as a whole. Hence, group identity tends to intensify as when ‘the “native peoples” of Canada … refer to their ancient traditions and cultures, in comparison with which the history of the “new Canada” might seem unimpressive’ (Taylor & Moghaddam, 1994: 84). Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 557 558 journal of P E A C E R E S E A RC H during periods of crisis (Stein, 1996). The conflict escalates as each new threat intensifies and agitates the identities of the target group and its members, widening the gulf between the groups (Worchel et al., 1993). This escalatory dynamic, and the continually increasing consolidation and intensification of individual and group identities that it produces, may partially explain the high degree of intractability that seems to characterize so many conflicts. Religion and Identity Having examined the purposes that individual and group identity serve, their content, and the processes by which they are constructed and maintained, I now turn to the relationship between religion and identity. In all their multifarious expressions and dimensions, the world’s religions answer the individual’s need for a sense of locatedness – socially, sometimes geographically, cosmologically, temporally, and metaphysically. Religious meaning systems define the contours of the broadest possible range of relationships – to self; to others near and distant, friendly and unfriendly; to the nonhuman world; to the universe; and to God, or that which one considers ultimately real or true. No other repositories of cultural meaning have historically offered so much in response to the human need to develop a secure identity. Consequently, religion often is at the core of individual and group identity. • Why does the identity impulse find support in religion? Hans Mol (1976) described the chief function of religion as the stabilization of individual and group identity. According to Mol, religious traditions and institutions resist constant change in the negotiation of social meaning, thus affording individuals and groups more secure anchors for volume 36 / number 5 / september 1999 self-reference. Underlying and supporting Mol’s theory of religion is his belief that a ‘differentiation/integration’ dynamic pervades human interaction (Mol, 1976: 3).4 Mol places religion squarely on the integration side of this dialectic.5 This is not to say that religion always operates to impede change within groups. There is, of course, an inherent tension in the dialectic, and the fact that identities partially founded on religion are also fluid and dynamic is one product of this tension. While all religions contain resources designed to facilitate the assimilation of new identity content, or even to constitute substantially new identities (e.g. rites of passage and conversion), religion in general tends to promote the stabilization of individual and group identity by favoring the preservation of old content (in the form of doctrine, ritual, moral frameworks, role expectations, symbols, and the like), offering individuals a basis for reconstructing their identities within a stable or very slowly changing universe of shared meaning. New content typically is assimilated, and old content significantly revised or reinterpreted, only after cautious censorship. Even where religion is placed in the service of a program designed to disrupt established identities – for example, Jesus’s radical program of Jewish reform and renewal – this typically occurs within the boundaries of an established discourse. His program no doubt was appealing and accessible to many who followed him in large part because they understood it as the fulfillment of something that was long familiar to them. Religions help provide the predictability and continuity that the individual needs to maintain a sense of psychological stability. 4 Others writing on the role of religion in intergroup conflict also have discussed this dialectical relationship (see Dunn, 1996). 5 Mol’s focus is intragroup relations; he does not consider intergroup relations to any significant extent. Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 Jeffrey R. Seul R E L I G I O N , I D E N T I T Y, Mol and numerous others have called attention to religion’s role in safeguarding order, both social and cosmic (see Berger, 1967; Juergensmeyer, 1993). Among the mechanisms by which religion sacralizes identity is what Mol calls ‘objectification’, which is ‘the tendency to sum up the variegated elements of mundane existence in a transcendental point of reference where they appear more orderly, more consistent, and more timeless’ (Mol, 1976: 11). The objectification of religious order enables individuals and groups to cope with change. ‘[T]emporal dislocations remain manageable’ so long as orderliness on a grand scale is assured (Mol, 1978: 180). Although there is significant diversity among and within religions, most religions provide their adherents with a world-view that assures their place in a meaningful and orderly universe, thereby partially satisfying the individual’s need for psychological stability. This assurance often is afforded an ultimacy that, particularly in traditions which emphasize belief and dogma, is selfvalidating (and perhaps even regarded as unassailable). Religious traditions often provide ready answers when pluralism and other forms of complexity threaten the established order, and thus the identities of individuals and groups (Abdullah, 1978). The frequently non-relativistic nature of these answers may help explain the worldwide resurgence of religion as a rallying point for political mobilization (Shupe, 1990). Religious communities and meaning systems also frequently are a source of the love (belonging) and affirmation (as a basis for self-esteem) that individuals seek. They also encourage self-actualization, and even self-transcendence. While membership in any group has the potential to support the development of one’s ‘public self ’, religious groups often are better equipped to address the identity needs of the ‘private self ’. This AND I N T E RG RO U P C O N F L I C T may be especially true of theistic religions.6 Theistic traditions provide assurance of the existence of an ultimately dependable other that is capable of affirming one’s sense of self when one’s fellows do not. An Arabic proverb puts it succinctly: ‘Men forget, God remembers’. What men forget, among other things, is their reciprocal identifications in the game of playing society … If [one] can assume that, at any rate, God remembers, his tenuous self-identifications are given a foundation seemingly secure from the shifting reactions of other men. God then becomes the most reliable and ultimately significant other (Berger, 1967: 37–38). If one considers oneself to be in ‘right relationship’ with God, one may feel assured that one is loved, and that one is justified in regarding oneself positively. One may see oneself as being on a path toward self-actualization. This private aspect of individual identity may partially explain the ‘greater degree of loyalty’ that religion seems to engender as compared to the ‘purely political’ forms of what Mark Juergensmeyer refers to as ‘ideologies of order’ ( Juergensmeyer, 1993). God, as the focal point of private commitment, becomes the hub that connects the various spokes (members) of the wheel (group). The commitment of the group’s members to one another becomes an expression – and, in times of crisis, perhaps even the litmus test – of their commitment to God. Religious groups often demand a high level of commitment from their members, so that it may be extremely difficult to shed one’s religious identity once it is established. This fact may contribute to the prevalence of religious conflict. As indicated above, efforts to 6 The role of identity in Buddhism arguably deserves special consideration because of Buddhism’s nontheistic orientation and its truly distinctive attitude toward the self. Buddhists’ participation in conflict in the contemporary world is mixed, however, as evidenced by the contrasting cases of Tibet and Sri Lanka. Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 559 560 journal of P E A C E R E S E A RC H enhance group status are likely when individuals have difficulty escaping the group. While religion may speak more deeply to the private self than other foci of identity, this does not imply that it regards group identity any less highly. Each of the world’s major religious traditions sacralizes group identity to an equal or even greater extent than individual identity. The ecclesia or Body of Christ (Christianity), the ummah (Islam) and the sangha (Buddhism) are notions central to their respective traditions. Whether many or few, liberally or narrowly construed, and strictly or minimally enforced, each tradition has some means by which it determines the boundaries of the group. Doctrines of salvation and chosenness, for example, provide ready ingroup/out-group distinctions. • What types of content does religion supply for the construction of identities? David Little (1995) provides several examples of the types of content that religions often supply for the construction of individual and group identity. Little mentions or alludes to myths of common origin, doctrines of chosenness and holy struggle, claims of primacy with respect to values that arise from a particular tradition’s worldview, actors who sanction individual and group behavior with a sacred authority, and memorials and rituals that commemorate the sacrifices of group members.7 Much additional identity-supporting content can be identified and added to Little’s list. The wide variety of religious doctrines addressing every conceivable aspect of human existence is one important addition. Breakwell (1986) emphasizes the import7 Those features of a religious tradition that provide substance to – or referents for – individual and group identity frequently also are the very processes by which identity is maintained. A ritual such as group prayer, for example, is a form of social interaction and influence that, by virtue of both what is thought and said and communal enaction of the ritual itself, is at once medium and message. volume 36 / number 5 / september 1999 ance of belief systems to the construction and maintenance of identity. Religious doctrines pertaining to the temporal ‘location’ and continuity of the self and the group provide an interesting example of the role belief systems can play in identity construction and the maintenance of psychological stability. Little (1995) mentions myths of common origin as one example of identitysupporting content that religions frequently supply. These myths – for example, the creation account in Genesis – explain the group’s beginnings in cosmological terms, thereby providing the religious practitioner a basis for locating oneself, as successor to the group’s original members, in relation to the origin of the universe and the beginning of time. The same cosmologies that explain the origin of the universe frequently explain its present nature and order, thus locating the individual and group in time present. Daily and weekly prayers and rites, and seasonal rituals and feasts, structure time and imbue it with meaning. Finally, many conceptions of salvation in the world’s religions project individual and group identity stably and securely into eternity. Where no doctrine of otherworldly salvation exists, martyrdom may provide access to a surrogate for individual salvation (Berger, 1967), anchoring the individual’s identity to a group identity that one expects to continue indefinitely. This temporal dimension of religious doctrine is one example of the often historically superior ability of religion to serve the identity impulse. Myths of common origin, periodic rites and feasts, religious cosmologies, and doctrines of salvation situate the individual in relation to time eternal, from the furthest past to the most distant future, in terms both mundane and transcendent. While other referents that contribute to one’s identity (e.g. ancestry) may partially address the human desire for temporal locatedness and continuity (as a contributor to psychological stability), none answer this Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 Jeffrey R. Seul R E L I G I O N , I D E N T I T Y, desire as completely as many religions do. Members of an ethnic group may share a belief in their common origin, but other features of ethnicity, where they are separable from religion, seldom locate individuals eternally. Religion frequently provides individuals a sense of seamless continuity between past, present, and future. Religious texts and oral material embody, among other things, myths, lore, songs, and prayers that contribute to identity construction in various ways. They are, in part, repositories of community memory, often providing individuals and groups a crossgenerational sense of belonging in time, as well as a sense of belonging with others in distant places. ‘[M]yth interprets reality’, sacralizing identity through ‘recurrent narration’ (Mol, 1976: 14). Members of a group assimilate the group’s narrative, which becomes a feature of their individual identities. Texts and oral tradition also communicate teachings, beliefs, and norms that have clear socializing effects, promoting order (which serves the need for psychological stability) and enhancing the group’s sense of specialness or purpose (which may serve the needs for belonging, self-esteem, and selfactualization). Wherever texts and oral tradition are afforded revealed or inspired status, their sacralizing potential is, for many, enhanced. To the extent that interpretation of texts and tradition is discouraged or restricted by virtue of their sacred status and the existence of a religious elite vested with primary or exclusive interpretive authority, they may provide non-relativistic and relatively self-validating and unassailable principles of order around which people construct their identities and groups define their borders. Perhaps no content is more important than principles of order such as these – the moral and institutional frameworks that establish norms of interaction and assign and AND I N T E RG RO U P C O N F L I C T regulate roles within the group. In addition to belief systems, which include such ethical frameworks, Breakwell (1986) identifies role prescriptions as another key factor in identity formation and maintenance. Religions readily supply such role prescriptions, ensuring that one’s identity in the group is legitimated and affirmed, whether it be celibate monk, mother, rabbi, or child. The Hindu system of varnashramadharma, which prescribes one’s responsibilities and purposes (according to social status) at a given stage of life, is perhaps the most powerful example of a religious framework of coordinated role orientations. Such frameworks establish norms and expectations for behavior between and among members of the group, often affording one’s identity within the group a ‘quality of suprapersonality’ by virtue of religious legitimations that conceive of the temporal order in relation to the cosmic (Berger, 1967: 39). Religions also provide moral and spiritual exemplars in the form of saints and holy people that embody the religion’s norms and highest aspirations. Specifically, religious norms arguably lay greater claim upon individuals than norms emanating from other sources. Durkheim recognized the potential force of both types of norms, but believed that fidelity to religious norms produces a person who is ‘stronger … It is as though he were raised above the miseries of the world, because he is raised above his condition as a mere man; he believes that he is saved from evil, under whatever form he may conceive this evil’ (Durkheim, 1912/1947: 416). This strength increases group cohesion (Berger, 1973). The special power of religious norms is thus a further example of the frequent ability of religion to respond to the identity impulse more forcefully than many other repositories of cultural meaning historically have responded. The relationship between the temporal Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 561 562 journal of P E A C E R E S E A RC H order as socially constructed and the cosmic order as understood by a particular tradition or sect may have a significant bearing on conflict between religious groups. ‘When the socially defined reality has come to be identified with the ultimate reality of the universe, then its denial takes on the quality of evil as well as madness’ (Berger, 1967: 39). As is evident in such places as the Sudan and Afghanistan, religious groups sometimes seek to establish a social order that comports with their religious world-view. When religious world-views collide, so do groups’ competing social expectations. Secular political institutions that seek to mediate among competing groups often are most vehemently opposed by religious actors and institutions. In times of social crisis, when identities are most vulnerable, religious norms and institutions may provide ready, alternative frameworks for governance, or, perhaps more commonly, support and justification for the non-clerical leaders and institutions which emerge to establish regimes in the service of a religious group’s nationalistic aspirations. The role of religious actors and institutions in the onset and escalation of the conflict in former Yugoslavia, for example, is widely recognized (see Dunn 1996; Mojzes 1995). These are but a few examples of the types of content that religions contribute to the construction of individual and group identity. Religion often lies nearer to the core of one’s identity, in part, because the other elements of one’s identity typically do not address the full range of human needs, fears, and concerns as comprehensively or powerfully as religion does.8 • 8 How is religious content transmitted This seems particularly true for moderns living in modern cultures. In tribal cultures, religion may be so closely aligned with other features of one’s identity (e.g. ancestry or clan membership) that it becomes difficult to conceive of religion as somehow in competition with other features of one’s identity. volume 36 / number 5 / september 1999 among a group’s members and assimilated into their identities? Kelman’s three processes of social influence – compliance, identification, and internalization – can be seen at work in the various rites, rituals, prayers and other forms of interaction that provide individuals access to religious content for the construction and maintenance of their identities. Religious education often is a vehicle or context for compliance- and identification-related identity formation. In some Quebec classrooms, for example, French Canadian children assimilate Roman Catholic identity through a combination of rewards, punishment, and manipulation of the social bonds between students and their teachers and priests (Zylberberg & Shiose, 1991). Certain rituals also arguably seek to shape identities through bids for compliance and/or identification. The following is a description of a ritual performed in an African Christian church in Amsterdam: When the prayers are concluded, that is when Satan is believed to have been effectively removed from this area, the pastor addresses himself to the congregation. He will assure them that the Lord has purified them and warns the congregation against going into any ‘dark places’, where Satan is believed to be active and where one can easily come under the influence of satanic powers … [After various prayers,] the congregation will submit itself to God by stating that ‘I belong to you’, and ask for his protection … Often the session is ended with the Lord’s prayer and what is called the ‘song of togetherness’, Psalm 133, which is in praise of brotherly love (Haar, 1995: 127). Through this ritual, these churchgoers reaffirm their Christian identity, and their belongingness to God and one another, in hope that they and their loved ones will be protected against satanic powers. They also reinforce their identification with one another through communal vocalization of a ‘song of togetherness’. Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 Jeffrey R. Seul R E L I G I O N , I D E N T I T Y, Rites of passage are important examples of religious socialization mechanisms that contribute to individual identity construction and maintenance, ushering individuals through transitions in status or role (Davies 1994; van Gennep, 1975). Many religions have established rites of passage for every major age and role transition throughout the life-span, from birth (or sometimes before) to death (and sometimes beyond). Birth and naming rituals – baptism in Christianity, for example, or the recitation of the shahaa–dah in a Muslim baby’s ears – begin to confer upon a child a religious identity that will affect its developing self-consciousness and its future interactions with others. Coming of age rituals, such as Judaism’s bar and bat mitzvah and Sikhism’s pagri banna–n (turban tying ceremony), invite youth to begin conceiving of themselves as adults. Marriage and ordination ceremonies help people make the transition to new role orientations. Together with adult rites of confirmation or conversion – the Roman Catholic Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, for example, or the typically arduous rite of conversion to orthodox Judaism – marriage and ordination may be the best examples of rites of passage that invite internalization of a new or reconstituted identity. Finally, the great variety of rituals surrounding death, while obviously intended to effect the deceased person’s transition away from earthly life, inform the identities of those who survive by reaffirming life’s meaning and their tradition’s views regarding the ultimate nature and destiny of the self (Holm & Bowker, 1994). Religion and Intergroup Conflict Not all expressions of religious identity inevitably lead to religious conflict. Within many religious traditions there are trajecto- AND I N T E RG RO U P C O N F L I C T ries that encourage adherents to resist violent forms of conflict. The pacifism of the historic peace churches (Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren) is well known, and Buddhism and Hinduism each contain teachings about nonviolence. There is much religious content that can support the development of individual and group identities around principles of nonviolence (see Little, 1996; Smith-Christopher, 1998). And yet, these traditions of nonviolence, which tend to promote tolerance of other religious perspectives, often exist against the backdrop of social and material realities that reinforce the need for group cohesion. Despite laboratory evidence that identity dynamics alone are capable of generating intergroup conflict, group needs for material and social resources typically also play a role. Thus, a religious group facing difficult social or material realities is likely to emphasize those elements within its tradition which group members perceive to be most capable of promoting group cohesion and of mobilizing group members toward the improvement of the group’s condition. Not surprisingly, the elements of a tradition that are emphasized by a struggling group often provide implicit justification for the use of violent force. Whether or not identity dynamics are capable of producing intergroup conflict apart from incompatible group interests, much social-psychological research strongly suggests that resource scarcity alone is insufficient to ignite such conflict. Identity competition very likely is a necessary condition to the eruption of intergroup conflict. The powerful ability of religion to serve the identity-related needs of individuals and groups and the special role identity dynamics play in the production and escalation of intergroup conflict together may help explain why so many conflicts occur along religious fault lines. Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 563 564 journal of P E A C E R E S E A RC H Two Counter-Arguments Anticipated: Ethnicity and Secularism Before concluding, I wish to anticipate and briefly respond to two potential counterarguments to my thesis. The first concerns the relationship between ethnicity, religion, and nationalism, and the second addresses the problem of secularism. Ethnicity, Religion, and Nationalism The issue that must be addressed with respect to ethnicity is whether it, rather than religion, is the principal identification fueling intergroup identity conflict which has a visible religious component. This is the position taken, for example, by Gurr (1993: 317), who finds religion to be ‘at best a contributing factor in communal conflict and seldom the root cause’. Citing as examples militant Shi’i Muslims in Iraq and Lebanon, he notes that their political goals include ‘rights and recognition, and not propagation of their faith’ (Gurr, 1993: 317). I believe Gurr has made a mistake that is common among those who comment on the relationship between religion and conflict. Most observers seem to assume that, in order to be properly characterized as ‘religious’, the combatants’ motives must be religious conversion or a desire to establish the superiority of one’s own tradition over that of others. While the right to self-governance on terms consistent with one’s religious convictions often is a central objective of groups in such conflicts, I do not believe most combatants intend to produce massive conversions or establish the metaphysical superiority of one religion over another. The superiority of their tradition already is assumed by the combatants and, for most, the persistence of that belief will not depend upon the outcome of the conflict. If this is the case, then use of the term ‘religious conflict’ is misleading to the extent it implies that religion somehow is the cause volume 36 / number 5 / september 1999 of a conflict. Conflicts between religious groups typically are caused by the same material factors and social dynamics that incite and fuel conflict between ethnic, racial, and other identity groups. The presence or absence of effective political structures and capable, conciliatory leaders; relative resource distribution; the degree of international attention and involvement; and many other political and economic factors typically have a significant bearing on the emergence (or non-emergence) and course of identity conflicts. Religion is not the cause of ‘religious conflict’; rather, for many, it still provides the most secure basis for maintenance of a positively regarded social identity, and it frequently supplies the fault line along which intergroup identity and resource competition occurs. Nonetheless, when conflict involving one or more religious groups does occur, the combatants may be emboldened by a sense of religiously defined identity and purpose, and their traditions may provide a fund of symbolic, moral, institutional, and other resources that can be used to mobilize the group and legitimate its cause. I find myself in essential agreement with Walker Connor’s views on the relationship between national sentiment and religion as they pertain to intergroup conflict, despite his assertion that ‘the well-springs of national identity are more profound than are those associated with religion …’ (Connor, 1994: 107). But, for Connor, the nation is simply ‘a self-differentiating ethnic group’ (Connor, 1994: 42). Nationhood requires ‘a popularly held awareness of belief that one’s own group is unique in a most vital sense. In the absence of such a popularly held conviction, there is only an ethnic group’ (Connor, 1994: 42). An ethnic group, then, is a group that shares some common trait that is visible to others, but not made a focal point for social organization by those who possess it. A nation is self-conscious and self-defining Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 Jeffrey R. Seul R E L I G I O N , I D E N T I T Y, in a way that an ethnic group is not (Connor, 1994: 103). Connor sees ancestry as the most common and powerful trait unifying national groups.9 Connor attributes nationalism to the identity impulse described above, which he refers to as ‘the “us–them” syndrome’ (Connor, 1994: 46). And while he rightly eschews facile efforts to attribute group conflict to religious or other cultural differences, rather than attributing it directly to the ‘us–them’ dynamic which is its psychological cause, in doing so he provides support for an important element of the argument I have advanced. According to Connor, belief in the kinship and uniqueness of one’s group is the essence of the ‘nation, and tangible characteristics such as religion and language are significant to the nation only to the degree to which they contribute to this notion or sense of the group’s self-identity and uniqueness’ (Connor, 1994: 104). Connor’s argument suggests that any single cultural marker, including religion, may serve as the referent for construction of national identity. While he certainly recognizes the complexity of national groups and the possibility of multiple identifications and markers, he also demonstrates that the ‘psychological essence’ of intergroup differentiation – the ‘us–them’ dynamic – often expresses itself through conflict along a single cultural fault line. I believe that religion supplies that fault line so frequently because vast numbers of people experience it as speaking more deeply to the identity impulse which underlies Connor’s ‘us–them syndrome’ than do other potential focal points for group identity, including ancestry. If, as Anderson (1991) suggests, the nationalist phenomenon is attributable in part to the loss of meaning many experienced as imperialism and religion began to 9 Keller (1991) discusses the saliency of factors other than ancestral ties in the construction of group identity. AND I N T E RG RO U P C O N F L I C T lose their hegemonic force, then we might expect nationalist movements informed and buttressed by religion to be especially effective antidotes to that loss. While religion is no longer a hegemonic force in many cultures and regions, it nonetheless remains a potent force, as I hope the preceding discussion has demonstrated. If nationalist movements provide meaning and a context for identity development generally, a nationalist movement linked to religion may, for many, offer greater meaning and a richer context for identity development. With careful study, it should be possible to identify the types of cases in which the primary fault line between groups in conflict is likely to be religious (as opposed to ancestral, linguistic, etc.). One probable case is where distinctions between competing groups based on ancestry and other markers are very difficult to identify, as in former Yugoslavia. There, religion is the only cultural marker that reliably distinguishes Bosnian Muslims from their Serb and Croat counterparts. Another case may be the apparent opposite, involving the accommodation of such differences within competing groups. Religion sometimes is able to unite peoples of diverse tribal and linguistic origin, as do Islam and Hinduism in India, for example. In both cases, religion serves a similar function, sometimes providing a basis for self-identification and group differentiation that transcends other markers. Religion has a protean quality: it can divide groups that otherwise are culturally similar, as in the case of former Yugoslavia; it can align fairly neatly with ancestral and linguistic markers, as it does, for example, in Northern Ireland; or it can serve as the basis for differentiation among groups that are similarly diverse, as it does in the case of Indian Hindus and Muslims. When considered in light of other factors – for example, the depth of commitment that religion often inspires and its capacity to Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 565 566 journal of P E A C E R E S E A RC H speak to the individual’s deepest existential concerns in a way that other repositories of cultural meaning typically cannot – this protean quality may help explain the frequent appearance of religion as the primary identity marker distinguishing groups in conflict. Whereas other common features of ethnicity (language, ancestry, social constructions surrounding skin color, etc.) frequently fail to provide clear bases for the establishment of group boundaries, religious self-identification as a basis for delineation of group boundaries can be comparatively straightforward. I am not suggesting, however, that religion always will prove to be the most salient and powerful force in intergroup identity competition among individuals whose identities are influenced by religion. That proposition would be contrary to much observable fact. Ethnic differences sometimes overcome a common religious loyalty – as they have among Hutus and Tutsis, for example, or Basques and Castilians. And, as already noted, national groups sometimes form in spite of religious differences. Nonetheless, the frequent entanglement of religion with conflict suggests both that religion remains a powerful source of individual and group identity and that, at least among those engaged in conflict between religious groups, religious justifications supporting violence have tended to hold greater sway than norms which oppose it. Secularism A second potential argument in opposition to my own involves the issue of secularism. Does group differentiation along religious lines require a high degree of commitment to the tenets of the religion with which one is identified? Can conflict occur along religious lines where members of religious groups have become well-accustomed to life in multinational (including multireligious) volume 36 / number 5 / september 1999 states governed by secular institutions? The questions are closely related, but they highlight different features of the problem that contemporary secularism presents: the issue of relative psychological commitment to the religion with which one is identified, on the one hand, and the relationship between religion and modernity, on the other. My answers to these questions suggest that religion can serve as the primary marker dividing groups in conflict whether the groups’ religious identities are lightly or firmly held. In response to the first question, it can perhaps be said with some confidence that strong commitment ‘delineates identity more clearly’ (Mol, 1976: 219). Mobilization of religious groups for political action may be easier when commitment runs deep (Swidler & Mojzes, 1990). Nonetheless, it is not difficult to find examples of highly secularized religious groups engaged in conflict, many members of which adhere loosely – or not at all – to the tenets of the religions with which they are identified. Bosnian Muslims, for example, are perhaps the most highly secularized Muslims in the world. Even lightly held affiliations may be sufficient for competitive, intergroup differentiation (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). And, as Connor explains, a group’s sense of ‘us’ in relation to ‘them’ is more important than the particular cultural marker that distinguishes the groups. Particularly when members of the relevant out-group(s) have a strong commitment to their own tradition, competitive pressure may cause the in-group to cohere more tightly around its own religiously-defined identity (if not the religion’s belief system). This arguably occurred within the Bosnian Muslim community as the conflict in former Yugoslavia intensified. Although Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegović apparently did less to foment militant religious sentiment Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 Jeffrey R. Seul R E L I G I O N , I D E N T I T Y, among his community than his Serb and Croat counterparts, he nonetheless was successful in ‘champion[ing] the homogenization of a Muslim ethnoreligious identity’ (Mojzes, 1995: 142). His Party for Democratic Action was clearly identified with Islam. While processes of secularization tend to result in the development of multiple identity affiliations among a society’s members, there is no guarantee that latent religious affiliations and sentiments will not arise as the focal point of group cohesion within secularized societies in times of social stress. As for the second question – that is, whether conflict can occur along religious lines where members of religious groups have become well-accustomed to life in multinational states governed by secular institutions – a quick survey of current conflicts would provide numerous examples of religious violence within the borders of modern states. How is it that militant bids for dominance by religious groups persist in the face of modern political, military, and economic institutions designed to mediate among competing groups? Many have observed that increasing modernization often leads to a widespread sense of social anomie that results from diluted or stripped identities (see Berger, 1967; Mol, 1976). Bruce Lawrence (1995) attributes the worldwide resurgence of religious fundamentalism to reactions against modernism, with its emphasis on social and technological progress; empiricism and science; pluralistic, secular state structures; and capitalism. While some expressions of fundamentalism embrace aspects of the modernist program – as Lawrence points out, fundamentalists the world over ‘talk by telephone, drive cars, and fly in airplanes’ (Lawrence, 1995: xiv) – each finds other aspects to protest about. While Lawrence sees fundamentalists as ultimately losing out to the forces of modernism, the fact that many AND I N T E RG RO U P C O N F L I C T regions of the world have only recently begun in earnest the transition from premodern to modern states of existence, suggests that the fundamentalist phenomenon about which he writes may persist for some time to come. Conclusion Religion frequently serves the identity impulse more powerfully and comprehensively than other repositories of cultural meaning can or do. Because religion provides such powerful support to individuals and groups as they endeavor to establish and maintain secure identities, it is not surprising that much intergroup identity competition occurs between religious groups. The peculiar ability of religion to support the development of individual and group identity is the hidden logic of the link between religion and intergroup conflict. 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SEUL, b. 1962; JD (University of Colorado, 1988); MTS (Harvard University, 1997); Lecturer on Law and Climenko Fellow, Harvard Law School; Senior Associate, Program on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. Current research interests: religious persecution, human rights, moral conflict, the role of law in conflict prevention and resolution. Downloaded from jpr.sagepub.com at SAGE Publications on December 7, 2012 569 INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS AND GROUP PROCESSES Reducing Intergroup Prejudice and Conflict Using the Media: A Field Experiment in Rwanda Elizabeth Levy Paluck This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. Harvard University Can the media reduce intergroup prejudice and conflict? Despite the high stakes of this question, understanding of the mass media’s role in shaping prejudiced beliefs, norms, and behavior is limited. A yearlong field experiment in Rwanda tested the impact of a radio soap opera featuring messages about reducing intergroup prejudice, violence, and trauma in 2 fictional Rwandan communities. Compared with a control group who listened to a health radio soap opera, listeners’ perceptions of social norms and their behaviors changed with respect to intermarriage, open dissent, trust, empathy, cooperation, and trauma healing. However, the radio program did little to change listeners’ personal beliefs. Group discussion and emotion were implicated in the process of media influence. Taken together, the results point to an integrated model of behavioral prejudice and conflict reduction that prioritizes the communication of social norms over changes in personal beliefs. Keywords: media, prejudice, conflict, field experiment, social norms Supplemental materials: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0011989.supp Lewin, 1952), early psychological research explored how the media could play a role in fomenting (Doob, 1935; Lasswell, 1928) and reducing (Cooper & Jahoda, 1947; Flowerman, 1949; Peterson & Thurstone, 1933) prejudice and conflict. This research began the work of identifying important theoretical issues, but eventually psychologists drifted away from the study of media effects. The research presented here is an attempt to fill gaps in both literatures. The setting for this study is the Central African country of Rwanda, where radio played a key role in a war and genocide that resulted in the deaths of more than 10% of the population and 75% of the Tutsi ethnic minority population over the course of 3 months in 1994. This study reports the results of a randomized field experiment conducted with the nongovernmental organization LaBenevolencija, which 10 years after the genocide produced a yearlong “education entertainment” radio soap opera designed to promote reconciliation in Rwanda. I test three questions within this experiment: Do the mass media have the capacity to affect (a) personal beliefs (here, regarding the soap opera’s messages about prejudice, violence, and trauma), (b) perceptions of social norms (depicted by fictional soap opera characters), and (c) behavior (open communication and cooperation)? Typically these different components of prejudice and conflict are studied separately and to the exclusion of factors prominent in real-world environments like emotion and peer discussion. I use real-world evidence to suggest what a more integrated theory of prejudice reduction might look like—specifically, one that is based on an understanding of the functional interdependence of For nearly a century, psychological research has tackled the societal problems of prejudice and intergroup conflict. Few topics have attracted a greater range of theoretical perspectives (Banaji, 2001b; Gaertner & Dovidio, 2000; Hovland & Sears, 1940; Sears & Henry, 2005; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Although this literature has generated some promising theoretical and empirical leads, scholars do not currently have a clear answer to the question, “What interventions have been shown to reduce prejudice and conflict in real-world settings?” (Paluck & Green, in press). Understanding of the mass media’s role in shaping beliefs and behaviors, especially prejudiced beliefs and behaviors, is even more limited. Spurred by widespread use of propaganda in the first and second world wars (Hovland, Lumsdaine, & Sheffield, 1949; The National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and the Institute for Social and Policy Studies provided support for this research. Donald P. Green and Albert Nzamukwereka were central to the conception and completion of this project. I received important feedback from many colleagues, in particular John Dovidio, Izzat Jarudi, David Sears, Scott Straus, Eric Luis Uhlmann, and Virgile Uzabumugabo. For their outstanding support, I thank Pamela LaMonaca, my research team in Rwanda, and the organization LaBenevolencija. The National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and the Institute for Social and Policy Studies supported me during this research. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Elizabeth Levy Paluck, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, 1727 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail: epaluck@wcfia.harvard.edu Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2009, Vol. 96, No. 3, 574 –587 © 2009 American Psychological Association 0022-3514/09/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0011989 574 This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. PREJUDICE, CONFLICT, AND MEDIA prejudiced beliefs, norms, and behaviors. Such a theoretical advance would have significant practical ramifications—most importantly, it could point interventions toward those factors most reliably related to prejudiced behavior. I address these theoretical issues with evidence from the first randomized field experiment of its kind to measure the impact of mass media on prejudice and conflict. Although the social psychological study of intergroup relations in Africa is not novel (Brewer & Campbell, 1976), Rwanda also tests the reach of psychological theories of prejudice, which are often used to discuss but are seldom tested in situations of extreme intergroup conflict and its aftermath (but see Bar-Siman-Tov, 2004). As media outlets proliferate in all corners of the globe, finding out whether the media can contribute to the reduction of the world’s prejudice and conflict falls under the longstanding call to “make psychology matter” (Campbell, 1969; G. Miller, 1969; Zimbardo, 2004). Moreover, I argue that rigorous research based in real-world settings will spark new theoretical developments on intergroup relations. The overall objective of this article is to progress toward these two goals. Prejudice, Conflict, and Media: Theory and Evidence In 1935, the father of modern psychological prejudice research, Gordon Allport, published The Psychology of Radio (Cantril & Allport, 1935), which explored among other things how people draw on stereotypes when listening to voices on the radio. Today, the joint agenda of media, prejudice, and conflict belongs to practitioners: on the one hand, those who use media to incite prejudice and conflict (including Rwanda’s radio station RTLM [Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines], which encouraged anti-Tutsi discrimination and violence in 1994) and on the other, those who use media to reduce prejudice and conflict. Each year governments and organizations around the world pour millions of dollars into antiprejudice public service announcements, print and internet publications, and television and radio programs (Howard, Rolt, van de Veen, & Verhoeven, 2003; Paluck, 2007b; Spurk, 2001). This includes children’s programs like Sesame Street (Brenick et al., in press; Graves, 1999); antiprejudice television commercials (e.g., http://themoreyouknow.com/Anti_Prejudice); billboards and bus posters (e.g., Horovitz, 1993; Vrij & Smith, 1999); information and advocacy Web sites (e.g., http://www.splcenter.org); and television, film, and radio dramas (e.g., Abdalla & Torrey, 1999; Ball-Rokeach, Grube, & Rokeach, 1981). Education entertainment is a genre of media used globally for social change campaigns, including antiprejudice and conflict reduction campaigns (Rosin, 2006; Singhal, Cody, Rogers, & Sabido, 2004). It weaves educational messages (e.g., about nonviolence or intergroup cooperation) into an entertaining radio or television show, typically a soap opera. Theoretical Rationales Those interested in media campaigns against prejudice find a bewildering array of theories at their disposal—theories of beliefs, norms, emotions, behaviors, and more. For the most part, these are distinct theoretical traditions that do not consider more than a few components of prejudice at a time (e.g., beliefs and behaviors), holding all other factors constant. As a result, those who design 575 interventions often target as many aspects of prejudice as possible (a strategy implied by some general models of behavior, which specify but do not rank in importance a long list of behavioral antecedents; see Ajzen, 2001, pp. 42– 47). A model that specifies the functional interdependence of social psychological components of prejudice and conflict would improve theoretical understanding as well as practical intervention. Understanding the relationships among prejudiced beliefs, norms, and behaviors would enable such a model to identify which component(s) of prejudice should be targeted under various circumstances and to predict the extent to which a change in one might influence change in the others. For example, if perceived norms change, how does this affect beliefs and behaviors? The theoretical literature is still far away from such a systemic understanding, but with an eye toward this goal, I review various perspectives on prejudice and conflict reduction, both in general and with respect to the media. Early scholarship on prejudice identified beliefs (defined as understandings of self and environment; Bem, 1970) as important components of prejudice (Allport, 1954, p. 13), and this remains one of social psychology’s most active areas of inquiry (e.g., Devine, 1989; Jost & Burgess, 2000). Although some psychologists claim that beliefs are extremely resistant to change (Bem, 1970), theories of media persuasion claim that beliefs are influenced by media cultures and programs (Ball-Rokeach et al., 1981; Hovland et al., 1949; McClosky & Zaller, 1984). Social cognition scholars claim that an individual’s explicit beliefs about a group of people might change but that societal stereotypes about groups endure (Devine & Elliot, 1995) and seep into individuals’ unconscious, where their operation is routinized and automatic (Banaji, 2001a; Dovidio et al., 1997). Some psychologists theorize that social norms (socially shared definitions of the way people do behave or should behave; D. T. Miller, Monin, & Prentice, 2000) have powerful effects on prejudice and conflict (Crandall & Stangor, 2005; Sherif, 1936). Others argue that under normative pressure people will veil rather than transform negative affect toward outgroups (Katz & Hass, 1988; McConahay, 1986). Media theories propose that mass communication is very successful at conveying what other people are doing or thinking (i.e., a descriptive norm; Mutz, 1998; NoelleNeumann, 1973), although the focus theory of norms predicts that the media are most influential when broadcasting prescriptive (should behave) norms (Cialdini, Kallgren, & Reno, 1991; Kallgren, Reno, & Cialdini, 2000; also Bandura, 1986, 2004). Media might communicate normative messages directly, or audiences may infer norms from the behavior of real or fictional media personalities (who often elicit the same responses as do actual peers; Rubin & Perse, 1987; Shapiro & Chock, 2003). Perspectives on the emotional and communicative aspects of prejudice and conflict have reemerged since the height of psychology’s cognitive revolution, particularly regarding empathy and discussion (Mendelberg, 2002; Stephan & Finlay, 1999). The fact that empathy—the experience of emotion congruent with another person’s situation—is linked with decreased prejudice (Batson et al., 1997; Schecter & Salomon, 2005) is notable because media programs can inspire empathy with real and fictional characters (Zillman, 2006). Intergroup relations theories might predict that empathy for individual media characters would generalize to the character’s real-world group (see Andersen, Downey, & Tyler, This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. 576 PALUCK 2005; Pettigrew, 1998), perhaps because audiences experience the program as vicarious contact with a member of that group (Cameron & Rutland, 2006). Group discussion has been linked to positive outcomes like cooperation, political tolerance, and more inclusive group identities (Mendelberg, 2002; Mutz, 2006). However, small group research also cautions that discussion can simply exaggerate a group’s initial attitudes, prejudiced or tolerant (Moscovici & Zavalloni, 1969; Myers & Bishop, 1970). In general accounts of media influence, Lazarsfeld and others have argued that personal discussions about media messages are the necessary link for converting personal opinions (Bandura, 2001; Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1955; Rojas et al., 2005). The relationships among these various components of prejudice and with prejudiced behavior are often subject to contentious theoretical debates. Although many investigators find the link between beliefs and behaviors to be unreliable (Greenwald, Poehlman, Uhlmann, & Banaji, 2007; Wicker, 1969), a large literature on implicit stereotypes shows that behaviors consistent with those beliefs can be subtly activated (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996; Kawakami, Young, & Dovidio, 2002). A rich theoretical tradition on prejudice, conformity, and social consensus suggests that both prescriptive and descriptive social norms powerfully predict behavior (Allport, 1954; Asch, 1958; Cialdini et al., 1991; Crandall & Stangor, 2005; Sherif, 1936). Individuals may value knowledge of a social norm more than their own personal beliefs (Kuran, 1995; Miller et al., 2000; Stangor, Sechrist, & Jost, 2001; Van Boven, 2000) but not, others argue, in the common case when individuals overestimate the number of people who share their beliefs (Monin & Norton, 2003; Ross, Greene, & House, 1977). Emotion and social interaction are infrequently integrated into these theoretical perspectives (cf. Smith, 1993). Evidence Unfortunately, the existing evidence on media influence and prejudice reduction cannot adjudicate among these various theoretical perspectives. W. G. McGuire’s (1986) “The Myth of Massive Media Impact” critique applies well: Field studies suffer from (a) poor measures of exposure to the media program, (b) poor measures of outcomes, and (c) no clear identification of a causal relationship between media program and outcomes. Laboratory experiments, in contrast, measure short-term effects of simplified and often fictitious media communications in an artificial environment. The artificiality of media laboratory studies is concerning, given empirical evidence that real-world conditions associated with media consumption play a nontrivial role in its impact: for example, simultaneous activities that impact the persuasiveness of, memory for, and interest in a communication (Janis, Kaye, & Kirschner, 1965); real or imagined social company that affects emotional and behavioral reactions (Ruiz-Belda, Fernandez-Dols, Carrera, & Barchard, 2003); peer discussions that can eliminate media framing effects (Druckman & Nelson, 2003); and repetition and sustained exposure that lead to boredom and annoyance (W. J. McGuire, 1985, p. 274) or to loyalty and emotional attachment (Zajonc, 1968). In the entire literature, only 10 field experiments have been conducted on media’s impact on prejudice—all involving television programs played in classroom settings for North American children. In response, this research departs from common practice. I test whether the media can reduce prejudice and conflict in a challenging real-world setting. In doing so, I take a grounded approach to theory building by measuring media impact on different components of prejudice and conflict. I argue that without empirically identifying the functional interdependence of these components, prejudice reduction theories will remain fragmented and one step removed from practical application. That is to say, should prejudice reduction efforts target beliefs, norms, or behavior (and under which circumstances)? Is change in one likely to spark change in another? How are factors like empathy and discussion implicated in prejudice reduction? Progress on this complex issue will stagnate without rigorous field research to restart the discussion. The Present Research: Radio in Rwanda Radio is the most important form of mass media in Rwanda, where, like most of the developing world, people gather to listen to the radio in groups (Bourgault, 1995; Hendy, 2000). Rwanda is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland; at the time of data collection in 2004 –2005, it was home to 8.4 million people (approximately 84% of whom identify ethnically as Hutu, 15% as Tutsi, and 1% as Twa) and was ranked among the least developed countries in the world at 158 of 177 (United Nations Development Program, 2004). Anti-Tutsi discrimination and violence that erupted in 1959 during the colonially sponsored Hutu Revolution widened small fissures in Rwandan society. Historically, Hutus and Tutsis lived side by side, spoke the same language, worshiped together, and intermarried. Ethnic identity was often contested and reconstructed by individuals who faked ethnic identity cards (first issued by colonial authorities) or who had physical features that enabled them to pass as a member of the other ethnic group. However, in the 1990s, as the country fell into economic crisis, political factionalism, and civil war, ethnic groupings crystallized into organizing categories of Rwandan politics and, to a certain extent, ordinary social life. Extremist Hutu politicians lumped Tutsi civilians together with Tutsi rebels threatening the country’s peace and encouraged anti-Tutsi sentiment using tools of policy, law, and media (Des Forges, 1999; Mamdani, 2001; Newbury, 1988; Straus, 2006). The case for the radio’s culpability in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide is well documented (e.g., Broadcasting Genocide, 1996; Chrétien, Dupaquier, Kabanda, Ngarambe, & Reporters Sans Frontières, 1995; Li, 2004; Straus, 2007; Thompson, 2007). RTLM was launched in 1993 as a talk radio station and progressively worked in anti-Tutsi jokes and commentary until it was considered an arm of the extremist Hutu government. In a landmark case, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted the radio station’s founders for crimes of genocide, arguing that radio “set the stage” for genocide (Prosecutor v. Nahimana, Barayagwiza, & Ngeze, 2003, p. 29). Today, Rwandans face a monumental crisis of trust in their communities, as survivors, returned refugees, and accused killers are obliged to live side by side in their old communities. Rwandans on all sides harbor resentment, are affected differently by the new Tutsi government regime, and have poor access to psychological treatment for trauma (Stover & Weinstein, 2004). Moreover, open discussion of ethnicity or of Rwandan history that strays from the PREJUDICE, CONFLICT, AND MEDIA official government version is effectively prohibited (Longman & Rutagengwa, 2004). This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. Rwandan Reconciliation Radio: New Dawn Musekeweya (moo-say-kay-way-ah), or New Dawn, is an education entertainment radio soap opera designed to address the mistrust, lack of communication and interaction, and trauma left by the genocide. The show’s fictional story of two Rwandan communities parallels the history of cohabitation and conflict between Tutsis and Hutus, with each community representing one ethnic group (direct mention of ethnicity would be censored). Tensions arise from a land shortage, government favors granted to one community and not the other; intercommunity relations crumble, and the more prosperous community is attacked. The result is casualties, traumatization, and refugees—a situation paralleling, without directly referring to, the lead up to and aftermath of the 1994 genocide. However, some characters band together across community lines, communicate with one another, and speak out against the powerful leaders who advocate violence (LaBenevolencija, 2004). Educational messages. The program’s Rwandan scriptwriters weave into the storyline educational messages that are aimed at influencing listeners’ beliefs about the roots and prevention of prejudice and violence and the symptoms of trauma and paths to healing (Staub, Pearlman, Weiss, & Hoek, 2007). These messages teach that the roots of prejudice and violence are located in the frustration of basic psychological needs (e.g., for security, a positive identity, and belongingness) and that violence is the accumulation of a number of factors, including a lack of critical thinking, of open dissent, of active bystanders, and of meaningful intergroup connections (Staub, 2006). Messages about trauma emphasize that its symptoms can be understood, trauma is not “madness,” and traumatized people can heal by talking with confidantes (Pearlman, 2001). The program’s characters deliver these messages didactically to other characters—for example, a wise man who talks to community leaders about the sources of violence and a healer who teaches a traumatized character about her symptoms. Depiction of social norms. By portraying the characters as typical, realistic Rwandans, the show is also positioned to change perceptions of social norms—that is, to demonstrate to listeners what their peers do (descriptive norms) and should do (prescriptive norms) in situations that many real Rwandans face. The characters use popular proverbs and traditional songs and follow the routines of rural life (92% of Rwandans live in rural areas). Their key behaviors are revealed as they wrestle with problems known to all Rwandans, such as cross-group friendships, overbearing leaders, poverty, and memories of violence. For instance, scriptwriters portray positive behaviors through two Romeo-and-Juliet-like characters—a boy and a girl from different communities who pursue their love in the face of community disapproval. Instead of succumbing to a tragic end, the pair start a youth coalition for peace and cooperation, in defiance of the warmongering authorities. Study Hypotheses I do not test the validity of the program’s messages, but rather the two strategies of influence— one aimed at changing beliefs and 577 the other at changing perceived social norms—and the program’s impact on its ultimate goal of changed behavior. Influence personal beliefs. The explicit goal of the radio program was to promote understanding of and belief in its messages, similar to a public education campaign (Staub et al., 2007). Thus, the first hypothesis is that the program will change listeners’ beliefs with respect to program messages about prejudice, violence, and trauma. Influence perceived norms. By portraying people and situations found in listeners’ own lives, the reconciliation program should influence listeners’ perceptions of descriptive norms regarding how Rwandans do behave and prescriptive norms regarding how Rwandans should behave in situations related to prejudice, conflict, and trauma. Influence behavior. The third hypothesis is that behavior will change in the direction encouraged by the program—that people will be more willing to speak and even dissent about sensitive topics (e.g., community relationships and trauma) and to cooperate with one another, even across group lines. This behavioral change may be observed in conjunction with belief change, norm change, or neither of the two. Empathy and discussion. Because neither empathy nor discussion was experimentally manipulated in the present study, documenting emotional and conversational reactions to the radio program can point to possible processes of change for future investigation. The literature reviewed above might predict that emotional and empathic reactions to radio characters and discussion will amplify media effects, although the predictions for discussion are less clear. Method The study was designed to identify the causal impact of the radio program in the most naturalistic manner possible, within a stratified sample of the population, and along theoretically meaningful outcomes (beliefs, norms, and behaviors) and possible processes of change (emotion and discussion), using various measurement tools. Sampling Listeners and Communities Because Rwandans typically listen to the radio in groups, I used a group-randomized design in which communities were randomly assigned to the treatment (the reconciliation radio program) or control condition (a different radio soap opera about health). The communities were sampled from categories representing salient political, regional, and ethnic breakdowns of present-day Rwanda: eight general population communities from four different regions, two genocide-survivor communities and two Twa communities (see Appendix A in the online supplementary material). I randomly assigned communities from each category to listen to the reconciliation or health program using a matched randomization procedure. Each community was first matched to the most similar community from the same category (general population, survivor, or Twa) according to a number of observable characteristics, such as gender ratio, quality of dwellings, and education level. Then, one community in each pair was randomly assigned to the reconciliation program and the other to the health program. 578 PALUCK This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. This stratification of sites helped to balance and minimize observable differences between the communities ex ante. Finally, I randomly selected 40 adults from official lists of all individuals living in each selected community, balancing for sex, age (half aged 18 –30 years, half above 30 years), and family (no more than one person from an immediate family). Four Rwandan research assistants who represented Hutu and Tutsi ethnic backgrounds visited each community with me and located these individuals to explain the study. Our purpose—“to understand Rwandans’ opinions about radio programs produced by the organization (LaBenevolencija)”—was defined broadly to avoid creating particular expectations. Pretest When an individual agreed to participate, the researcher obtained informed consent and posed a series of demographic questions and questions about radio listening habits and experiences of the genocide. The total participant sample (N ⫽ 480) ranged from age 18 to 87 years (M ⫽ 38.5). Seventy-nine percent of participants were farmers; 73% of men and 63% of women had some primary schooling. Catholics made up 64% of the sample, followed by Protestants (14%). Only 53% of participants actually owned a radio; 83% of those without a radio reported listening in groups with family and neighbors. Ninety-nine percent of the participants were in Rwanda at the start of the genocide, and approximately 50% were displaced by the violence for a time of 1 week to a few years. Sixty-nine percent of the sample claimed one or more relatives were killed in 1994. Twenty-eight percent of the general population participants had a relative in prison, compared with 7% of survivor and 57% of Twa participants. As expected, random assignment balanced covariates between the reconciliation and health program groups on all measured characteristics (see Appendix B in the online supplementary material). Experimental Procedure Over the course of 1 year, the same Rwandan research assistants visited each community to play that month’s four 20-min episodes on a portable stereo for the group. Although research assistants were aware of the program differences, they were blind to specific research hypotheses. Participants gathered in their respective community spaces as they do for nonresearch occasions to listen to the radio. Control groups listened to an education entertainment radio soap opera that aims to change beliefs, norms, and behaviors about reproductive health and AIDS: Urunana (Hand in Hand; hereafter “health program”). Thus, program content was the only difference between the two conditions—the listening protocol and outcome measurements were the same. The monthly field visits guaranteed that participants listened to the program but preserved the most natural environment possible. Research assistants who visited every month sat and listened with the group as part of what was designed to be a casual community gathering. The group shared customary local drinks (purchased by the research team), and research assistants never provoked or guided discussion. Research assistants filled out observation sheets (see Appendix C in the online supplementary material) after they left the site to record attendance and rate the groups’ levels of observable enthusiasm, attentiveness, confusion, emotional expressions, and amount and type of discussion during and after the program. They recorded how often participants discussed program themes like intergroup prejudice, violence, or trauma. Keeping the Control Group Untreated I took extra steps to ensure the control group remained untreated by the reconciliation program, which was broadcast nationally during the evaluation period. I asked the health program groups to refrain from listening to the reconciliation program for 1 year; as an incentive to comply, I promised a portable stereo and 14 cassette tapes containing the year’s worth of reconciliation program episodes at the end of the year (also promised to the reconciliation groups). Thus, health participants understood their promise as a postponement and not a sacrifice. There are several reasons to believe that health participants did not listen to the reconciliation program. There was no existing loyalty to the program because it was new, and there were three alternative programs on other stations during Musekeweya’s broadcast. When research assistants made casual comments to health participants about the reconciliation program halfway through the year, participants indicated that they were not listening. Doubtless some health participants did listen to the reconciliation program one or more times. However, if significant numbers of participants crossed over, findings would underestimate the true effect of the reconciliation program, pointing toward a false negative (Type II) error rather than a more troubling Type I false positive error. The true unbiased difference between the reconciliation and health groups would be larger, making my analyses a conservative estimate of program impact. Data Collection At the end of 1 year, a team of 15 Rwandan researchers accompanied the regular research assistants and myself to each community for 3 days. We conducted individual interviews, focus groups, and behavioral observation with all 40 participants. Individual interviews. Researchers read each participant a series of statements, and participants specified how much they agreed or disagreed with each statement by pointing to one of four progressively larger circles printed on a large index card; the smallest circle represented disagree strongly and the largest agree strongly. Nine statements measured participants’ beliefs with respect to the program’s educational messages, and six statements measured perceptions of descriptive (“that is the way things are”) and prescriptive (“that is the way things should be”) norms portrayed in the program (see Table 1). Questions about the health program tested the discriminant validity of the intervention, specifically whether the pattern of treatment effects reversed in favor of the control group on questions about health. Researchers measured participants’ empathy for other Rwandans with four statements probing whether participants “imagine the thoughts or feelings of” Rwandan prisoners, genocide survivors, poor people, and political leaders. Focus groups. Participants organized into single-sex groups of 10 discussed four topics: intermarriage, violence prevention, PREJUDICE, CONFLICT, AND MEDIA 579 This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. Table 1 Interview Items Regarding Personal Beliefs and Perceptions of Social Norms Category Item Personal belief Mass violence grows out of a series of small acts like spreading rumors and stealing Mass violence comes about suddenly* If I stand by while others commit evil actions, I am also responsible When people marry each other from different regions, religions, or “ethnicities,” this contributes to the peace Traumatized people are “crazy”* Perpetrators of violence can also be traumatized Recovery from trauma is possible A pregnant woman who has AIDS can be given a chance to have a healthy baby (Health) You can safely share something with someone who has AIDS (Health) I advise my children (or the ones I will have in the future) that they should only marry people from the same regional, religious, or ethnic group as our own* It is naive to trust* There is mistrust in my community If we disagree with something that someone is doing or saying, we should keep quiet* For the sake of my mental health, I should never talk about the experiences that have caused me great pain and suffering* It’s necessary that every woman who is pregnant goes to the health center to be tested (Health) Social norm Note. Social norms include both descriptive and prescriptive norms. Asterisks signify items that are reverse coded. trauma, and trust. As with the individual interviews, the goal was to assess personal beliefs and perceptions of social norms. Researchers also repeated questions from the individual interviews in the focus group to test whether individuals would voice the same opinions in front of their peers as they did privately. Behavioral observation. Researchers recorded group deliberations about how to share and supply batteries for the portable stereo and set of 14 cassette tapes of the radio program presented to each community at the end of the data collection. Given the monetary and entertainment value of a portable stereo, this discussion was of great significance to the participants. The measure also captured spontaneous behavior that participants believed to be “off the record”—their discussions took place during the goodbye party when the research team gathered with the participants to share drinks and socialize. To launch the discussion, one research assistant presented the stereo to the group and suggested that because they were all present they could decide how to share and supply it with batteries before parting ways. Two researchers sat discreetly in the back of the group and record...
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