Identity Formation in the Shadow of Conflict: Projective Drawings by Palestinian and Israeli Arab Children from the West Bank and Gaza

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Center, Bruce A.;Bastien, David T.; & Elbedour, Salman (1997) Identity Formation in the Shadow of Conflict: Projective Drawings by Palestinian and Israeli Arab Children from the West Bank and Gaza , Journal of Peace Research 34(2): 217–231.

Social identity is thought to be the means through which individuals understand themselves in their social context. Understanding the processes of identity formation in the context of intergroup conflict is particularly important, since social identity is critical to understanding how people act. Social identity, though, has been a difficult process to study since it is a purely internal construct. In this study, we argue that free-form drawings provide the greatest insight into how people see themselves in their social context. Data were gathered from Arab subjects in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Among the important findings is that subjects exposed to the greatest conflict tend to organize their identities in ways that include their enemy as well as themselves. This necessarily creates a situation where the conflict becomes self-perpetuating.