As well as being patchy, the old system had no facility for members to share their interests with the organization or other members, or to get more involved in the organization beyond attending OICD events.
Today we launch a new and improved membership system which focuses on matching up new and old member’s interests with what’s going on the organization. Hopefully with this new system in place we can more effectively fulfill the aim of building and maintaining our culture and identity network and platform.
New and old members alike, do head over to and sign-up to the new membership system.
“Engaging Conflict and Peace through Identity: An Academic-Practitioner Collaborative Workshop”
from the Department of Anthropology, UCL and the OICD
9th– 10th November 2015, London
On the 9th and 10th of November 2015, a two-day conference, “Engaging Conflict and Peace through Identity: An Academic-Practitioner Collaborative Workshop” was hosted by the Department of Anthropology, University College London (UCL) and the Organisation for Identity and Cultural Development (OICD). The conference brought together leading academics, practitioners and representatives from conflict transformation NGOs to analyse the role of identity in the promotion of peace and/or the promotion of conflict.
The first day featured a series of academic and practitioner perspectives on conflict transformation, CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) and the promotion of social cohesion through identity. The second day consisted of an interactive simulation which applied the OICD’s EMIC (Engagement Methodology for Identity in Conflict) to a UK CVE case study, showing the productive capacity to build bridges between practitioners and academics.
The conference was opened by Dr. Ruth Mandel (UCL) who welcomed participants and introduced them to the workshop. Dr. Bruce White (UCL) then proceeded with the first talk of the day, “Engaging Conflict and Building Cohesion through Identity”. The OICD’s two main goals were introduced – the application of interdisciplinary research on identity to real world problems and the creation of a platform for academics and practitioners to discuss and construct real world application of research.
Dr. White discussed identity as a root cause of conflict, constructed in nature and therefore manipulated to divide, radicalise and sectarianise. Dr. White also emphasised that identities are under our control, which also implies that we can counter this manipulation in providing competing discourses that dilute or offer alternative frameworks of meaning to individuals.
Next, Dr. Susan Pattie (University College London) continued with her talk, “When Friends Become Enemies: Identities at the Breaking Point”, discussing how everyday connections can break and reverse in times of crisis. Creation and consolidation of a powerful master narrative act to limit identity formation as selected history is made personal, emotional, embedded and connected to one’s sense of self.
Dr. Pattie discussed the creation of this narrative through the performance of history through poetry and song, made more pervasive due to their importance to everyday life, group recital and the use of symbols which hold meaning for the performers. As the master narrative comes pervasive, connections and comparisons to others are lost which acts to prevent flexible identity formation.
Dr. Sara Silvestri (University of Cambridge and City University London) then discussed the role of religion in conflict and peace-building in her contribution, “Religion within the Context of Conflict or Peace Producing Identity Dynamic”. In a situation of escalating conflict, religious language and concepts are used to cultivate identity. Religious claims are not the source of conflict, but can be used by leaders to obtain legitimacy and cultivate a particular power plan. Dr. Silvestri stated that it is therefore important to be sensitive to the language of religion which forms part of the cultural elaboration of conflict, but there is a need to look at other factors in seemingly religious conflicts. Participants next took a short break for lunch, reflecting on the talks in their vibrant discussions.
After the break, Phil Vernon, Director of Programmes and acting CEO at International Alert, described the organisation’s work, goals to build a capacity to manage conflict and the merits of taking a vision-based approach in this process.
This was followed by a powerful talk by Haras Rafiq, managing director at the Quilliam Foundation, who emphasised that preventing extremism and tackling Islamism will require debate, dialogue and discussion.
Milo Comerford, a researcher at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, discussed the importance of examining the non-military activity of terrorist groups in order to understand how shared discourses can be ultilised as emotional persuasion tools. For example, through examining Jihadi group identity and culture, we can discover destructive narratives to inform an introduction competitive discourses with sophistication.
After this series of engaging talks, Dr. Bruce White and Wayne Jordash closed the first day conference by thanking participants for their engagement and inviting applications for attendance to the second day workshop.
Day two provided an opportunity for academics and practitioners to build on the day one talks by working in smaller groups to analyse and interact with conflicts and identity through the OICD’s EMIC process. After participants greeted one another and discussed day one’s events, the session was opened by Dr. White with an introduction to the OICD’s aims in promoting peace and conflict through identity.
In the first session, participants worked together to identify relevant identity factors from research data. Each group was given an unnamed data set, and asked to interpret its contents. Each dataset described a group of people, and participants worked hard to discover what kind of person their data set represented, forming their first impressions in groups.
Presentations were then given by each group. Group A described a predominantly white-British group who were socio-economically marginalised, adding that the group represented carried a strong anti-Muslim ideology. Group B identified a group with a strong community feeling, who at the same time felt divided and disenfranchised with British society. Group C identified a transitional generation in their dataset, who were predominantly female. Group D described male youth who were angry and confused with their surroundings but felt positive in their references to ISIS.
After groups had shared their initial impressions, groups worked to create a list of recurring ideas in their data set which the people represented either associated themselves with or associated themselves in opposition to. Concepts were then written onto labels and placed on a board under subsets titled “socio-economic”, “gender”, “religious/ cultural”, “national”, and “global societal”. The mess of labels spread across the board was then transformed as participants added and re-organised concepts. By the time the first session ended for lunch, participants were unaware of how the workshop would progress, but seemed eager to discover how their analyses would come together in the second session.
After a refreshing break, groups participated in an analysis and strategy building component of the workshop Participants from the four original groups were re-allocated to three groups, mixing experts from the data-sets to create diverse sets of experts on all dynamics of the given situation. New groups were then asked to compare and contrast the ways in which different concepts were used and accessed by groups. When groups presented ideas, comparisons were made between categories A and D, which shared very narrow and fixed focuses on concepts such as “nation” or “religion and culture”, as well as strong perceptions of right and wrong. Conversely, groups proposed that categories B and C accessed a greater variety of concepts across the board.
Through interpreting and analysing the map on the board, groups were then able to select cultural symbols and narratives to develop strategies for countering extremism. The map enabled participants to recognise which concepts more radical groups would have to lose to become more like the groups which had more flexible identities (amplification), and the ways in which they could make positive connections with other groups (re-rooting). For example, the nationalist group A had felt underrepresented, and group D had perceived an oppression of Islam in British society. The two groups could be linked through the realisation of a common struggle, as was present in group B’s (more flexible) identity.
In the final stage of the workshop, groups designed interventions based on the strategies they had previously developed, discussing the extent to which they would be able to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of their proposals. Proposals such as religious school swaps, alternative narratives to portray new British values, introducing more Muslim role models in popular British culture through YouTube clips to target youth and the establishment of community dialogue programs to provide a voice for local people.
The workshop was closed by Bruce White and Wayne Jordash, who gave reflections on the benefits of bridging academic understanding to practical application in the creation of social cohesion.
It has been a productive two days in which individuals from many fields have shared their unique expertise through day one’s series of talks, and in smaller groups during the EMIC process simulative workshop on day two, discussing and building sophisticated platforms for conflict intervention. We hope this two-day conference has provided an inspiring and valuable experience which has demonstrated avenues for not only countering extremism in the UK, but also the potential for building social cohesion on a global basis.
The name change was announced by the OICD executive committee today, October 26th 2015. The new name will allow the OICD to communicate the nature of its work more effectively.
The Intra-Cultural Development conceptual and methodological frameworks that the former name encompassed are unchanged and still at the foundation of the organization’s approach to conflict transformation, engagement and social cohesion building.
The transition to the new name will take some time as social media accounts, the OICD website, and graphical design elements are all updated. Please expect both new and old names to appear simultaneously for the transition period.
A flyer with further details on our two-day identity and conflict workshop, “Engaging Conflict and Peace through Identity: An Academic-Practitioner Collaborative Workshop” has been released.
The workshop will be hosted by the OICD in collaboration with the Department of Anthropology, University College London (UCL). The event will take place on the 9th-10th of November and bring together leading academics, practitioners and also representatives from conflict transformation NGOs (International Alert, Strategic Dialogue, and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation) to examine the role of identity in engaging conflict and/or promoting peace. It will pay particular attention to countering violent extremism (CVE) in the UK.
OICD partners with the Anthropology Department of University College London (UCL) to host a conference:
UCL Anthropology, 14 Taviton Street, London, WC1H 0BW (Rooms TBA)
9th-10th November 2015
Engaging Conflict & Peace through Identity:
An Academic-Practitioner Collaborative Workshop
See the full program here.
In a new collaboration with the departments of anthropological sciences and international relations at the University of Malta, the OICD is co-hosting a one-day workshop on the 15th of October entitled:
AT THE BORDERS OF IDENTITY: FORCES OF COHESION AND DIVISION IN EUROPEAN MIGRATION AT LOCAL, NATIONAL, & EUROPEAN LEVELS.
Speakers include local journalists, NGO and government representatives. The workshop is open to the public. See the full program here.
“Engaging Conflict & Peace through Identity:
Building Practical Toolsets from Conceptual Understanding”
from Queen’s University’s ISCTSJ and the OICD
4th– 5th June 2015, Belfast
On the 4th and 5th of June 2015, practitioners and academics from many different fields came together at Queen’s University, Belfast for a two-day conference. The first day consisted of position pieces, academic papers and discussions. The second day consisted of a workshop designed to provide its participants with a unique insight into the OICD’s EMIC process and its capacity to build bridges between practitioners and academics.
The conference was hosted by the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice (ISCTSJ) and the Organization for Intra-Cultural Development (OICD).
Prof. Andrew Strathern and Dr. Pamela Stewart, a wife and husband research team based in the Department of Anthropology at Pittsburgh University, opened the conference with their presentation “Engaging conflict and peace through identity.”
Dr. Katy Hayward of the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work and research fellow at the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University started the second session of the conference with her contribution: “The Conditions in which ‘identity’ becomes Contentious.”
Dr. Neil Jarman, Director of the Institute for Conflict Research in Belfast, who has worked intensively on the political transition in Northern Ireland, followed with his lecture: “Sharing with Segregation: Twenty Years of Peace in Belfast.”
Dr. Paul Nolan, director of the Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Survey and faculty member of the Queen’s University Department of Education, opened the conference’s third session with his talk, “The facts on the ground: demographic drivers of change in Northern Ireland”.
Dr. Cathal McManus, director of the Open Learning Office, followed with a presentation on “Marching Matters – A problematic tradition for the Orange and the Green?”
Pamela Stewart and Andrew Strathern ended the conference with their second presentation, “Peace and Conflict: Ritual Bridging,” which illustrated the importance of rituals in conflict resolution and their peace-building potential.
Dr. Bruce White closed discussion for the day, thanking the presenters and audience for their participation.
On the second day, a workshop aiming to provide participants with a first insight into the EMIC process and its possibilities took place. Using the case study on radicalization in the UK, participants were encouraged to use the EMIC process themselves in order to discover its strengths and weaknesses.
Each participant had received one of four unnamed data sets the day before the workshop. As preparation for the workshop, they were asked to read through the datasets, without knowing to which groups the datasets belonged, in order to develop a basic understanding of the identities of the different groups.
On the day of the workshop, the 21 participants arrived at a conference room transformed: all that awaited them were four numbered tables. Still unsure what the day would bring, the academics and practitioners took their places. The first task was introduced: “Everyone at your table received the same dataset; as you have already noticed, the datasets are unnamed. Your task is to find a name for your group.” This first task proved challenging as the academics sought to avoid blatant categorization; the tables found themselves engaged in intense conversation involving explanations for different names. The following names were decided upon: ‘White British Nationalists,’ ‘disaffected threatened Muslims,’ ‘young British Asian Muslims,’ and the ‘Perpetuated.’
The blank sheets of paper in the middle of each table were waiting to be written upon. The next step awaiting the participants was the visualization through mapping of all the key concepts, symbols, and narratives. A short introduction by Dr. Bruce White on the EMIC’s mapping process left the participants with many questions. “What does he mean by this?” was the overall question to be read in the participants eyes as they entered into new and intensive discussions. Every group developed their own methods of visualization and mapping:
As each group presented their maps, the first pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. Similarities between the groups began to emerge. For instance, the ‘British White Nationals,’ who presented last, pointed out their group’s conception of themselves as protectors of women. This narrative proved to be shared by the ‘Disaffected and Threatened Muslims,’ who also viewed themselves as protectors of women. The first round of presentations ended with applause and the participants headed off to a much-deserved coffee break.
The second session started with a reorganization of the groups. Before, every group was united by a shared dataset; the new groups had representatives from every former group. The table members rotated and after introductions the next task followed: “You now have from every former group at least one expert. We already discovered that there seem to be similarities in how the groups construct themselves or ‘the other,’ how they situate themselves within society … What are the similarities and differences within the key concepts that your different groups access?”
New discussions emerged and notes were taken during the keen discussions. At the end of the session each group presented and the ideas were collected on the white board:
Overarching themes in all the groups were perceptions of being threatened or blamed by the other groups and being dismissed or not represented by the media or political system. These feelings aroused anger, resulting in marginalization, demonization or feelings of exclusion from society. These feelings of exclusion triggered a search for belonging which could result in a higher vulnerability to being attracted by extremist approaches or in a need for self defense entailing attacks against other groups. Similarities were clear and the dynamics, both between the groups and within their own identity constructions, were difficult to miss. These were just some of the great results and combinations that the groups came up with during their presentations.
The next questions were: what interventions or strategies could be built upon the knowledge gained through the research, mapping and analyzing processes? How can peace be promoted and cohesion be built between these different groups?
Participants worked within their groups, keenly discussing to collect possible ideas and complete the bridge between academics and practitioners.
In a last presentation round the ideas were once again collected on the whiteboard.
One of the great overall themes was the building of mutual understanding, involving the overcoming of walls that enable groups to establish images of other groups as the enemy and sustain marginalization. Questioning of the conflicting role of government within peace processes, calls for education and critical thinking were further discussed.
Finally, last ideas and common threads were discussed. After a round of applause and a big thank you to all the participants for choosing to slip once more into the student role, the ISCTSJ and OICD’s Belfast conference drew to a close. It is the hope of both organizations that everyone involved left inspired and with a fresh perspective.
The OICD workshop in Belfast successfully concluded. The OICD would like to thank all participants for making the workshop a success. A workshop report will follow shortly.
The Program for the 2015 OICD annual workshop (June 4th-5th) has been finalized. This year’s workshop will be hosted by The Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice (ISCTSJ) at Queen’s University, Belfast.
The theme of the workshop is:
ENGAGING CONFLICT & PEACE THROUGH IDENTITY: BUILDING PRACTICAL TOOLSETS FROM CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING
The two-day workshop will bring together academics, community/development practitioners and peacemakers. The workshop will be a mix of academic and position-piece papers (day one) and a real-world project building practicum (day two).
Those interested in attending should contact the OICD.