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Mapping the terrain of hypersensitive dialogue


Guidelines for Critical Dialogue between Worldviews: as exemplified by the need for non-antisemitic dialogue with Israelis? (Part #9)


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In a world acknowledged to be complex, it is to be regretted that so little effort is made to map out the nature of the terrain over which dialogue touching on sensitive issues takes place:

  • What are the different kinds of terrain?
  • How do they relate to each other?
  • How can one move from one to the other, especially if some parts are separated by untraversible abysses?
  • Are some more skilled in traversing certain kinds of terrain than others?

Complexity of dialogue terrain: It would be convenient if such terrain were to be understood as reasonably "flat". It is probable that it is more convoluted than most geographical terrain. And it is even more probable that its complexity can only hoped to be mapped multidimensionally -- in a form at best (if not only) comprehensible through interactive multi-media devices.

Provocatively it might be argued that the psycho-social dynamics to which humans have not found a sustainable solution -- as with the Middle East situation -- are likely to be more complex than problems to which solutions have been found. This is consistent with Ross Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety. It is therefore a useful provocation to note the description of one such complex solution and to recognize the dimensionality and language that may well be needed for resolution of the Middle East situation:

For L.G. Aldrovandi and F.A. Schaposnik (Quantum Mechanics in Non(Anti)Commutative Superspace, High Energy Physics - Theory, 4, 2006): We consider non(anti)commutative (NAC) deformations of d=1 N=2 superspace. We find that, in the chiral base, the deformation preserves only a half of the original supercharge algebra, as it usually happens in NAC field theories. We obtain in terms of a real supermultiplet a closed expression for a deformed Quantum Mechanics Lagrangian in which the original superpotential is smeared, similarly to what happens for the two dimensional deformed sigma model. Quite unexpectedly, we find that a second conserved charge satisfying the supersymmetry algebra can be constructed, so that finally the deformed theory has as many conserved supercharges as the undeformed one. The quantum behavior of these supercharges is analyzed.

Given the amount of "defence research" effort devoted by mathematicians to the precision-guided weaponry of destructive "dialogue", it is surprising that more effort is not allocated to identifying the viable pathways between different areas of a complex sustainable dialogue through which community can be built (And When the Bombing Stops? Territorial conflict as a challenge to mathematicians, 2000). The research skills are readily available (cf Dragan Milovanovic, Postmodern Criminology: mapping the terrain. Justice Quarterly, 1996). There is a case, for example, for recognizing how the relationships between some of the unacceptably disastrous areas of "dialogue" are well-mapped by the various "catastrophes" of catastrophe theory (cf Cognitive Feel for Cognitive Catastrophes: question conformality, 2006).

Insights from "anti-feminism": Given the more widespread familiarity with discourse concerning abuse in the form of sexual harassment and rape, the map of this terrain could offer methodological pointers to experiences associated with "anti-semitism" (including "non-anti-semitism" and "anti-anti-semitism"). The relationship has notably been explored by Eishiro Ito (Anti-Semitism/Anti-feminism in Giacomo Joyce. Journal of Policy Studies, 2006). But, as noted by Peter Zohrab (Sex, Lies and Feminism, 2002):

A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability to either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is or accept definition(s) that could serve as points of unification. Without agreed upon definition(s), we lack a sound foundation on which to construct theory or engage in overall meaningful praxis

This raises the possibility that "anti-feminism", like "anti-semitism" may not be a single definable concept but rather a dynamic of concepts whose coherence may be multi-dimensional -- rather than as might be expected in any theory tending to focus on possibilities of simplistic remedial "road maps" over conventional terrain. Tools such as concept mapping may be fruitfully employed (cf Rebecca Campbell and Deborah A. Salem, Concept mapping as a feminist research method: examining the community response to rape. In: Ellen B. Kimmel and Mary Crawford, Innovations in Feminist Psychological Research, 2000; Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin Agency and Choice in the Face of Trauma: a narrative therapy map Journal of Systemic Therapies, 2005; Cheryl Tatano Beck Pentadic Cartography: Mapping Birth Trauma Narratives Qualitative Health Research, 2006)

Distinct from approaches such as that of Inger Skjelsbaek (Sexual Violence and War: mapping out a complex relationship. European Journal of International Relations, 7, 2001), there is the possibility that the so-called "vicious cycles of violence", whether physical or structural, might be mappable onto complex mathematical objects. These could offer more integrative approaches to sustainable relationships between seemingly opposed positions -- rather than depending (yet again) on negotiating techniques of Getting to Yes (1981) or Getting Past No (1993) in the hope of simplistic "win-win" reconciliation. Such a dynamic context could offer more legitimacy to the various understandings of "anti-semitism" ("anti-feminism", etc) and the various critical perspectives on it that now sustain a complex dysfunctional system.


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