Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution

Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution

We are the stories we tell. Interactions and relational dynamics are a function of those stories. Institutionalized discourses structure the stories that can be told; however, the stories that are told can also re-organize the nature of institutionalized discourses, changing political and social systems.

Conflict is the discursive process in which people struggle for legitimacy, caught in stories they did not make (by themselves) and all too often, cannot change---the network of social relationships, histories and institutional processes restrict the nature of stories that can be told. Conflict, from this perspective is a narrative process in which the creation, reproduction and transformation of meaning itself is a political process---a struggle against marginalization and delegitimation, for legitimacy, if not hegemony. Narratives matter.

The Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution (CNCR), directed by Sara Cobb, is a newly chartered center at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. It provides a hub for research, conversations on practice, workshops and consultations, connecting the research on narrative and conflict to the practice of narrative intervention in conflicts.

The mission of CNCR is to:

·      To advance the theory, practice and research on narrative processes in conflict dynamics;

·      To anchor research on narrative processes in conflict dynamics within and across the faculty and                  students at S-CAR and at Mason;

·      To create a “hub” for academics and practitioners around the world working on conflict resolution              from a narrative lens;

 For more information, please email: CNCR,

Narrative Practice Working Group

The Narrative Practice Working Group (NPWG) at CNCR provides students an opportunity to develop their skills as narrative practitioners.

Its mission is to support narrative practice competency for S-CAR students and to advance narrative practice, as a mode of intervention, at S-CAR.

The group meets weekly on Tuesday from 5:00-7:00 pm; they engage in simulations and role plays. They also use their own conflicts and issues as the context for the narrative analysis and intervention, using the micro-analysis of videotapes of interviews/conversations to identify transformations in the narratives. The group is working to develop competency in skills such as narrative mapping and storyboarding, improvisation, positive connotation, reframing, negative explanation, circular questions, destablization, and circular questions.

NPWG has identified three stages to their learning; each stage has implications for their activities and the focus of the group:

       Experiential learning about personal narratives that guide our actionsin personal and professional domains;

       Narrative analysis and intervention skill development through case study and experiential learning;

       Development of a workshop on narrative conflict resolution, including exercises and supporting materials;


For more information, please email:


International Collaborations

The Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution is in collaboration with the Conflict Studies Program at the University of Amsterdam on a project entitled "Conflict and Urban Governance." This collaboration includes David Laws, Director of the Conflict Studies Program at the University of Amsterdam, Sara Cobb (S-CAR), Kim Leary (Harvard Medical School) and John Forester (Cornell University). Case studies of urban conflict address issues of multi-culturalism, deliberative democracy, integration policy and adaptive leadership; the group is using "story" and "narrative" not only as an object of research, but also as the framework for the research process itself.

CNCR is hosting members of this team March 24 and 25, 2011; see "Events" for more information. Case studies of a mosque siting as well as a case of urban conflict involving class and ethnic tensions will be presented and discussed.

For more information, please email: or call 703-993-1300.

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