Special Issue Article

Talking to the Enemy: Difficult Conversations and Ethnopolitical Conflict

  • Donald G. Ellis


The article reviews intractability qualities and uses the Israeli‐Palestinian conflict as an example of the difficult conversations that characterize the conflict between competing groups. There are two typical research trends for analyzing group conflict. These are either a rational model or intractable conflict model. The rational model assumes that differences are over realistic issues such as scarce resources. The intractable model focuses on identity and emotions. Intractable conflicts are recalcitrant, nonrational, and particularly resistant to resolution. They generate difficult conversations. The argument here demonstrates how intractability establishes the descriptive conditions for difficult conversations about conflicts. These conditions are incommensurate cultural narratives, narrative particularity, existential threat, power differences, and delegitimization. Islam and the West and the Israelis and Palestinians are used as examples. Finally, such difficult divides must attend to five issues that ameliorate difficult conversations, namely, inclusion, maximization of arguments and reasons, controlling undue influences, dialogic equality, and the value of deliberation.

Keywords: difficult conversations, Islam, intergroup conflict, ethnopolitical conflict

How to Cite:

Ellis, D., (2020) “Talking to the Enemy: Difficult Conversations and Ethnopolitical Conflict”, Negotiation and Conflict Management Research 13(3), 183-196. doi: https://doi.org/10.34891/1ftn-g083

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Published on
13 Jul 2020
Peer Reviewed