Conflict and Conflict Management: How Culture Matters

Babajide O Ololajulo




... we ignore the local cultural narratives and meanings that inform the participants at the peril of misunderstanding the nature and extent of violence. (Jon Abbink, 2001:123)

Many conflicts are embedded in intolerance and prejudices that are culturally constructed. Some others have also remained intractable on account of lack of cultural awareness and intercultural communication. People, most times, do not only see things from their own cultural perspectives, but usually expect "cultural others" to use same lens to cognise and interpret the social environment. Divergent views that emanate from an alternative cultural perception, therefore, necessarily create misunderstanding, which may afterward result in tension, and sometimes, violent conflict. Since human perceptions, values, and organisation of meanings are product of socialisation experience, which usually is context specific, it reasonably follows that cultures around the world may develop different explanation for a singular phenomenon. In other words,

intercultural conflicts occur in the contexts of cultural differences and underscore the way different societies perceive social reality (Kimmel, 2006; Avruch, 2005; Avruch and Black, 1991).Quite often, when the relevance of culture to conflict and conflict management is acknowledged in peace and conflict studies, it is usually in relation to the impacts, which communication and cultural perception bear on negotiations and mediation processes (Fisher 1980; Weiss 1994; Bercovitch and Elgstrom 2001). Stephen Weiss, for instance, reckons negotiation as duly affected by the actors' basic conception of negotiation, their orientation toward time, their willingness to take risks, their protocol, and their decision-making style (Weiss 1994).

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