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How intractable is intractable? A social psychological study of the permeability of imagined boundaries across groups in conflict

Nicholson, Cathryn (2016) How intractable is intractable? A social psychological study of the permeability of imagined boundaries across groups in conflict. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The aim of this thesis is to examine the social psychological significance of intractability across groups in conflict using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a case study. The permeability of group boundaries that are assumed to separate and divide is examined through the exploration of the groups’ dialogical relationships with each other in three different studies. Using an ideographic approach, a total of fifty two depth interviews were carried out in London and Israel, to capture meaningful perspectives of the conflict by those enmeshed within it. The first study set in London, explored the perceptions of Jewish participants with a lived experience of Israel and of Palestinian participants living in the UK, as to the intractability of the conflict. Results showed a diverse set of social representations where imagined boundaries between the groups remained closed due to their different historical interpretations leading to present day perceptions, yet at the same time the boundaries were softened by a vision of an imagined future where both groups talked of the sharing of their commonalities rather than differences. The second study was set in northern Israel, exploring how a sample of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, the latter group making up 20% of the population, worked together as medics. A contrast was found between their flourishing relationships inside the work space, protected by Israeli medical ethics and that outside, where inequality, with a sense of non-recognition by the Palestinian citizens, and a sense of threat by the Jewish citizens reflected the latter groups’ dialogical relationship with the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The final investigation, explored how the concepts of semantic barriers and bridges were useful in exploring boundary permeability further to discuss how intractability is not necessarily a given, but a symptom of asymmetrical relationships in tension. As a whole, this thesis makes contributions to the study of conflict in Israel, to the intractability of conflict in general and to possibilities for dialogue.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Cathryn Nicholson
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Supervisor: Howarth, Caroline

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