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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

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People, Peace and Power: Conflict Transformation in Action
Diana Francis

London: Pluto Press
ISBN: 0-7453-1835-5, 264pp, PB: 15.99



For both practitioner and academic audiences People, Peace and Power provides a thoughtful read on one of the most prevalent methods of conflict resolution intervention, the workshop. For practitioners, the author's description of her own workshop methodology provides a useful description of a workshop model modified for several different contexts. For academic and student audiences, the author's detailed descriptions of several workshop experiences offer descriptive material to ground more theoretical discussions regarding such issues as gender and conflict resolution and the special problems that culture poses to conflict resolution.

Both with regard to the literature she surveys, and the concepts she uses to advance her argument, Francis relies almost exclusively on the work of conflict resolution scholars and practitioners.

While many of the primary intellectual founders of conflict resolution are discussed, some readers will no doubt note the absence of references to work on negotiation and mediation written by scholars in international relations, psychology, and alternative dispute resolution. Moreover, and notwithstanding the reference to "power" in the book's title, those who straddle conflict resolution and other social sciences will likely be disappointed by Francis' lack of engagement with the concept of power. Indeed, Francis' theoretical discussion of power depends almost entirely on the work of those within the field of conflict resolution to develop this part of her argument (e.g., Lederach, Galtung).

Nevertheless, Francis' deep experience as a mediator and workshop facilitator in several conflict zones (Africa, the Balkans, and Central Asia) has made her sensitive to at least some of the power differentials that many workshop participants face as they attempt to operationalize what they learn in workshops in their home contexts. Eschewing a 'culture of violence' and realist power politics in favor of more cooperative strategies, Francis' response to the power problem is to argue that more narrow conflict resolution interventions need to be supplemented with insights and strategies developed by practitioners of non-violence movements (e.g., Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr). The result is a training framework that combines traditional conflict resolution methods (e.g., like facilitated problem solving and role plays), with the social change tactics of non-violence. As Francis illustrates in several useful appendices, workshop facilitators can combine models of conflict dynamics (e.g., the stages of conflict escalation and de-escalation) and social change to provide workshop participants with a schema for understanding how and when their own activism can be most effective and/or dangerous in struggles for social justice.

The most valuable aspect of People, Power and Places is the author's lengthy descriptions of her own workshop experiences as a conflict resolution professional. Four separate chapters describe a 'training-for-trainers' workshop involving African women, a Geneva-based, international non-violence workshop hosted by an ecumenical church organization, a reconciliation workshop held for Balkan women, and series of dialogue groups held in the Balkans during the 1990s. Francis uses each chapter to illustrate common problems for workshop facilitators and participants, and to make her larger argument that truly transformative third party interventions in conflicts must be premised upon a respect for cultural and power difference, both between workshop participants and their societies and between participants and facilitators. Francis' reflections on these issues, including excerpts from her own workshop diaries, do double duty here, coupling her analysis of these issues with her own example of how a facilitator might constructively tailor workshops to accommodate these larger issues.


Christopher T Timura, University of Michigan



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