Faculty Research Profiles

NADIM N. ROUHANA – PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL NEGOTIATION AND CONFLICT STUDIES

Nadim Rouhana’s recent research is concentrated on three major focus areas:

New paradigms of conflict analysis and resolution: As Rouhana sees it, current paradigms of conflict resolution tend to be Western-centric and flawed by built-in assumptions that favor the high-power party over the low-power party. One such assumption is the imposition of presumed symmetry on conflicting parties when realities on the ground are vastly different. This is a mistake, Rouhana argues. “As researchers, conflict analysts, and third parties,” Rouhana says, “we have to be very careful about symmetricizing conflicts. We also have to allow the parties themselves, including the low-power party, to define what issues concern them most.” Power asymmetry should be a fundamental consideration in conflict analysis, as it results in differing views on the agenda, relative importance of the status quo, and visions of change and an optimal future.

Rouhana’s new paradigm challenges existing assumptions and emphasizes, in addition to the question of power asymmetry, issues of history, historical responsibility, and social justice, each of which is largely absent in standard applied conflict resolution. By placing greater emphasis on comprehensive conflict analysis, and by giving history and justice their due place, Rouhana seeks to make conflict resolution more relevant to what has been called “the third world.” “It is hard for many political cultures to take conflict resolution seriously,” he argues, “particularly people in the third world who are involved in these conflicts, without bringing history and justice to the table.” As part of this research stream, and with funding from the World Peace Foundation, Rouhana organized a two-day conference at Fletcher entitled Western and Non-Western Views on Conflict Resolution to examine different perspectives on the politics of conflict resolution, the way conflict resolution methods are theorized and implemented by Western and non-Western, official and unofficial parties, and to explore hegemonic and anti-hegemonic views on conflict resolution.

Rouhana has also contributed groundbreaking work on distinguishing among conflict settlement, conflict resolution, and reconciliation, notably critiquing the definition of the latter within the field of social psychology. These three processes, he argues, “differ in terms of goals of agreement, parties to the agreement, nature of the desired political relationship, importance of mutual acceptance, social and political prerequisites, and psychological dynamics.” Rouhana has a special interest in the ways that intangible, non-negotiable human needs such as dignity, identity, and collective memory can be addressed within the negotiation process.

Rouhana has participated in pioneering new methods of conflict resolution. As a predoctoral student associate and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, Rouhana studied under Processor Herbert C. Kelman, with whom he worked on an approach called the problem-solving workshop (PSW). Rouhana and Kelman later developed a new approach called the continuing workshop. Informed by a socio-psychological approach, the continuing workshop features regular intensive meetings between high-ranking non-official individuals over a long period of time. The meetings are designed to facilitate constructive interaction between opposing parties in an effort to advance jointly formulated ideas on how to address major issues of dispute in a given conflict. Rouhana argues, though, that the methodology, to a large extent, suffers from the same faults of Western approaches and needs to be seriously modified to address questions of power asymmetry and historical injustice.

Rouhana chairs The Fletcher Seminar on International Conflict, a public speaker series on international conflicts, ethnic conflicts, and emerging theories in conflict studies and conflict resolution.

Religion, nationalism, and human suffering: With funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, Rouhana undertook a major international research project in partnership with Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Mada al-Carmel—Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Haifa. The project pursued three overriding objectives: (1) to clarify the role played by religion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in particular the forces driving a possible growing fusion between the religious and the national; (2): to comparatively examine the intertwining of the religious and the national in other conflicts, namely Sri Lanka, India, and the former Yugoslavia, in order to better understand the possible fusion between religion and nationalism in Israel-Palestine and its potential consequences for the conflict; and (3) based on the findings, to make policy recommendations for conflict resolution in Israel-Palestine, focusing in particular on negotiation and counteracting the potential fusion between religion and nationalism. The project engages two dozen scholars from Israel, Palestine, and other international locations. The team is currently working on an edited volume to present the comparative perspective on the fusion between religion and nationalism and its impact on conflict dynamics.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Rouhana has dedicated particular focus to studying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His research and writing have focused on the conflict dynamics and on Israeli and Palestinian societies. Rouhana’s publications in this area include Palestinian Citizens in an Ethnic Jewish State: Identities in Conflict (Yale University Press, 1997) and numerous other books, articles, and book chapters. His most recent book on this topic is the edited volume Israel and Its Palestinian Citizens: Ethnic Privileges in the Jewish State (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Rouhana is also the Founding Director of Mada al-Carmel—Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Haifa, which undertakes theoretical and applied social research and policy analysis to broaden knowledge and critical thinking about the Palestinians in Israel, equal citizenship, and democracy. Mada’s research focuses on Israeli society, Palestinian society, dynamics of conflict, settler societies, collective rights, and alternatives to partition.