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Overcoming Identity Based, Intergroup Conflict with the American Religious Right

By James Henricks

Abstract

The Religious Right in the United States has become a long-standing player in the American political system. Through the course of its political involvement, this group of politically active conservative religious people has become involved in many conflicts since its origins in the late 1970s. Taking controversial stances on many social issues, this conflict has become ingrained in American politics and society. As conflicts such as this become protracted, they become less focused on tangible outcomes or the original issues, and a system develops where conflict roots itself into the identity of a group. This can lead to stalemate, hostility towards the outgroup, and other problematic systemic issues in conflict. The guiding research question for my thesis is how one might overcome such an identity based, intergroup conflict. To understand how group identity functions in conflict, I have used the Religious Right as a case study to which I applied social identity theory approaches to conflict. In my thesis, I first outline social identity theory and establish its relevance for conflict. I then, using others research, show how understanding this aspect of human cognition helps us see how social identities may play out in conflict, and what role approaches based on social identity theory may take in conflict resolution. In my next chapter, I present a brief historical sketch of movements preceding the American Religious Right and how it has developed since its origins. With my theoretical base and my case established, I then show how the approaches informed by social identity theory laid out in my first chapter may be applied to the Religious Right. This application of theory shows that there exist several possible approaches through which engaging people in the Religious Right may lead away from the problematic entrenched systems of conflict and towards a more productive means of engagement

Topics: Social Identity Theory, Religious Right, Religion and Conflict, Religion, Conflict and Dialogue, Religion, Conflict and Dialogue, Religion, Conflict and Dialogue
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Year: 2017
OAI identifier: oai:helda.helsinki.fi:10138/191432

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