Francophone Network on Identity-Based Conflict

Led by J. Peter Burgess

May 2011 – May 2011

A certain form of identity — be it individual, social, cultural, professional, religious or political — constitutes the point of departure for any and all relation with others. Identity is what makes us what we are and who we are. And yet, the experience of identity invariably evokes codes of exclusion, difference and distinction. Belonging to a collectivity always concerns the delimitation of that collectivity and the application of a logic of conflict and contention.

The codes and norms of belonging are the raw materials and the basis for the legitimisation of the most violent conflicts of our time.

Understanding one’s identity means understanding the contention or the conflict implied by its opposition to other identities. This is why the constellation identity-conflict reveals itself as interesting: by studying the conflictual dimensions of identity as a function of conflict across a range of social and human sciences, one begins to develop a theory of conflict in which identity is recognized as a well structured and legitimate basis for conflict. This approach leads in the direction of a theory of conflict resolution that goes beyond the interest-based approaches, and toward an approach that understands identity as the basis of conflict.

The purpose of this project is to organize a French-language conference on the theme of identity-based conflict and to seek funding to organize two more conferences in 2003 and 2004.
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