Narrative 704

Narrative Approaches Conflict Analysis


30 October 2014

Castel substitute


Master/Counter Narrative Dynamics: a Hegemonic Process

Master narrative = story that history tells, history is the story of the victors, and who reads the story, it has a monopoly over being told

  • Stories found lying about in our culture that serve as summaries of socially shared understandings
    • Archetypal
      • An original pattern or model on which all things of the same kind are drawn, prototype, a model or first form
    • Stock plots
    • Readily recognizable characters
      • Hero bad guy damsel in distress
    • They exercise moral authority over our moral imaginations and play a role in informing our intuitions. We draw on it all the time
    • Examples
      • foundational myths (Columbus)
      • fairytales
      • Bible
      • Landmark court cases
      • movie classics
        • we draw on these for our stock plots, our achetypes


What do we do with Master Narratives

  • through these we make sense of our experiences and justify what we do
  • the way we make meaning leads to action



  • stories are a selection

Counter Stories

  • “narrative act of insubordination”
  • Are the subset of stories developed htrough selection of particulars which suggest the relevance of moral concepts until particulars na their moral interpretations have been set into an equilibrium that points to a specific understanding of the subject
    • Goal is to become a master narrative
      • Constitute a revised understanding of a person or social group
      • Define people morally
      • Are developed for the express purpose of resisting and undermining and oppressive MN
      • Fill in details the MN leaves out or underplays



  • Def=one’s own and other’s selective, interpretive, and connective representations of the characteristics, acts, experiences, roles, relationships, and commitments that contribute importantly to one’s life over time
  • You’re always developing identity
  • Negotiation of identity – found communities vs communities of choice
    • Subject to what you do to ethical examination and reflection
    • Relocation and renegotiate identity
  • IDs are narratively constructed (how I see me, how others see me, how I see others seeing me)
  • Constraints to self-constituting narrative
    • Explanatory force
      • Backward looking narrative legitimacy, ie, using past actions to prove what you’re saying
    • Correlation to action
    • Heft
      • Carries weight, is compelling


Contesting will feed a master narrative, so offering another unrelated narrative can be better



How is identity damaged?

  • When powerful persons seeing a people as sub or abnormal unjustly prevent someone from occupying roles or entering into relationships that are identity constituting
    • Deprivation of opportunity
  • When a person internalizes the hateful, dismissive, self-understanding
    • Infiltrated consciousness


Maria Pilar “narrating evil” she talks about these groups, the way to get to new stories is through having a group you trust



  • Normally defined merely as a capacity one has
  • She argues that agency and free will are assessed and characterized in relationship to others and institutions
    • We’re not just born agents, we have to be given that or allowed to be that by others
  • DEF = Agency is the ability to reveal oneself through their story
  • Implications
    • What do terrorist do when the can’t talk? What do their organizations do when they can’t talk


Oppressive Master Narrative

  • Abusive power relations are not a result just of what people think, but it’s a structural issue
  • Oppressive MN justify the oppression of a particular group
  • Poisons self perscpetion
  • They crowd out, distort, discount counter narratives
    • Wards off alternatives
  • MN learns, grows, changes, not stagnant
  • Delegitimizes the construction of the other
  • Asserts an understanding of the other
  • The MN assimilates resistance through victim-blaming
  • Silences coercive conditions, invisibilizes oppression


Counter stories

  • Look for cracks, hypocracy in what people say in the MN and what they do
  • Must be culturally digestible
  • Widely circulated
  • Varying degrees of resistance
  • Repair damaged ID
  • Aim at freedom of moral agency
  • Could become a MN
  • They’re taken up by those in the oppressed groups and those in power for it to be affective
  • Doesn’t need to uproot MN entirely
    • Freeing a group’s moral agency is good enough
    • When you alter any part of a narrative system, the narrative system changes


Questions for if a counterstory meets the functional criteria for ID constituting stories

  • Does the story reveal the person as a developed moral agent
  • Does the story reidentify the group as well as the individual? Does the sotry loosen the constraints on moral agency?
  • What are you trying to do with a story?
  • Who gets to tell the story?




25 Sept 14



Dream justice

Good v evil



Innocent victim


Acted on


Dependent on father figure





Internalized conflict

Recognizes context


It’s about the hero and the hero is alone

Has tragic flaw: it doesn’t make the hero evil, Hamlet’s flaw was he was indecisive, they are sometimes called fatal flaw if it’s fatal

He’s active because no one will come in and save him

They talk a lot or think out loud to the audience a lot, process of self reflection, they think


To main emotions


Hero didn’t really deserve his fate


We recognize this could just as easily happen to us, maybe that encourages empathy


Even if hero gets dream justice, it comes at a high price and usually finds out it’s not what he actually wanted.

-tragic irony is everything you’re working toward, you often get the opposite

-there is growth, learning, and development from the ashes.

-waiting around for dream justice often gives you a bad ending. However, if you engage like a tragic hero, you may get better than dream justice

Tragic mindsets can produce more activity and thinking and can produce a better


In melodrama there is a cost for Dream Justice, but Melodrama ignores the costow



How you do this

Show them they’re you’re friend, comic hero, that you won’t judge them

Help her recognize when she’s wrong, get lots of detail on the steps in the story and the spaces in between the steps and the context, etc

Delegitimize the hero’s story by helping them see their own flaws

This helps them see their “villain’s” tragic flaws

Help them recognize choices they’ve made, they have agency


Voice helps heal, or people speaking



  1. Tragedyà
    1. Complexity
    2. Uncertainty – sometimes we’ll never have enough information
    3. Flaws
    4. Agency
  2. Leads into
    1. Conflict disappears
    2. Suffering disappears
    3. Alternative choices emerge
      1. Where the magic often happens in terms of conflict resolution
    4. Dream justice is possible (but costs)
    5. Life sucks (but we learn)




Actant Analysis: PwrPt


Tragedy according to Aristotle and Sara Cobb


Crisis that resonates with the AC and reveals humanity of the hero and produces pity and fear in the audience




People do + action to address the problem but it has a – underbelly





People do + action to address the
problem but it has a – underbelly





People do + action to address the problem but it has a – underbelly




Antecedent Conditionàcreates a problem



18 Sept 14

Dr. Samantha Hardy


9-4 on Oct 2 free workshop on Conflict coaching


“it’s only when we question whether we have the wrong story that we begin asking how a narrative may structure our view of how things are”

Story – a single account with a beginning middle and end with a story of resolution or questioning resolution at the end

Narrative  is a meta story – cumulative version of the key features of a group of similar stories that reps their aggregate meaning

Genre a set of rules for the construction of a narrative. Rules for telling stories

Do genre, there’s a reason you are performing this genre




Genre drives conflict because it locks up and locks down what you can say and even how you can view or present your story.


The problem is the story. In Angela’s case, and many other cases, the story is not the way we find the conflict, the story is the conflict, the story she’s telling produces the conflict

Melodrama gives a sense of security/comfort about the controllability/predictability, in a complex world in uncertain times

Just be good and things will work out, someone will rescue you, those in power are good

Characters are either good or bad, no gray

Conflict is externalized, no inner conflict

Conflict is between individuals, no context

Sensational, outrageous, a bit implausible

Audience is inspired to feel pathos for victim and hatred against villain,

End is dream justice


Heroine in a conflict setting is maybe in the environment – you do good at work and that is virtuous, passive in all senses

Villain is active, it’s all about his actions, challenges heroine’s virtue, motivation disproportionate to level of suffering he causes, they just do bad stuff because they’re bad

Father figure or judge – primary responsibility or power to protect the heroice

Hero – virtuous, well-intentioned, practically useless, totally devoted to the heroine


Why does this matter?

  • This simplifies complexity
  • Diverts our attention from useful info in relation to the conflict and social structures
  • Discourages conversation
  • Polarized ppl in conflict
  • Encourages us to be passive
  • Encourages dependency on others
  • Discourages us from recognizing past and future choices
  • Focuses us on and incentivizes suffering and exaggeration
  • Encourages us to wait for dream justice
  • Motivates us to idealize the past
    • When no return is possible
    • Restricts opportunities for growth and learning



  • Audience is the story teller,
  • Has no one else to talk to, reflective, talks to himself, no dependency
  • Have choices,
  • Everyone is btoh good and bad
  • Situation is complex




28 Aug 14


US Media Narratives of Gaza


Interview Journalists to understand how they report on the conflict in Gaza



  • Al Jazeera contact through Ally’s Uncle
  • Ramzi’s contacts
  • Journalism professors
  • Communications and/or conflict professors
  • Reporters (amateur/professional)
    • Electronic Intifada
    • Blogosphere
    • Twitter
  • Activist groups
  • FOX
  • ABC
  • NBC
  • CNN
  • CBS


Contrast with official views from



US Gov’t

Regional countries important (Egypt, Turkey, Qatar)



  1. What role do you see the media playing in this conflict?
  2. What role have you seen your media play in this conflict?
  3. Who do you talk to
  4. How is the story conceived, assigned or proposed
  5. How organized
  6. How edited
  7. How selected
  8. Motivation for reporting on this?



4 September 2014


Structural Question:

What are the core components, typologies, features of the US media narrative on the Gaza conflict summer 2014 for both print/internet media consumers and producers?

  1. Separate into two questions
    1. What stories are the journalists telling about the stories?
    2. What influences the component parts of your stories or how you make stories?
  2. Use descriptions or lines from reporters’ work to launch the interview with reg ppl
  3. Diff btw media narratives and narratives about the media


What are the media narratives?

What are people’s understanding of narratives coming out of media?


Goal of interview

Go beyond the stock story of the narrative people have

  1. Tell people what you’re doing
    1. Who you are
    2. General statement about the nature of the project
  2. Ask questions
    1. Develop a suite of questions
      1. Ask questions that are open ended or that open them to elaborate.
      2. Ask questions that make the answers complicated or in depth or rich and deep
        1. Make it a not simple conversation



Umbrella issue into which you can ask 3 questions

The role of journalism in conflict

This is about praciting narrative,

How journalists narrate their role in conflict

Can you tell me about a time that exemplifies quality reporting in conflict?

What are the ways the reporter represent his/her role in reporting about conflict?



How do journalists see objectivity maintained in their field?


How do people see, consume, trust/not trust, are influenced by the stories from the media?



Post structural

It’ll be about power and who gets to influence and you can ask journalists too, find the stories that don’t get told and ask why and who would agree with you, what are the consequences to the system, etc?

-how are you positioned as a reporter in this whole process?




Confirmed Trying
Pro Palestinian

Liberal (German) N 24

Washington Post


Al Arabiya or something


Get someone local at least

France 24?

Someone in NY – academia


American spectator

National review



Be aware of your question and the categories of what you’re looking for before you get into the interview

Be with the people

Sara Cobb’s number 202-255-9870