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Pathways to PeaceThe Transformative Power of Children and Families$
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James F. Leckman, Catherine Panter-Brick, and Rima Salah

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027984

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027984.001.0001

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Group Identity as an Obstacle and Catalyst of Peace

Group Identity as an Obstacle and Catalyst of Peace

(p.79) 6 Group Identity as an Obstacle and Catalyst of Peace
Pathways to Peace

Douglas P. Fry

The MIT Press

Social identity is not only an obstacle to peace; it can also be engaged to advance peace (e.g., when children are raised to develop multiple and cross-cutting forms of identification). This chapter considers evidence that nomadic forager band social organization is not particularly conducive to the formation of hostile "us versus them" social identities; these “us versus them” distinctions became strongly manifested through the development of more complex forms of social organization (e.g., tribes, kingdoms, nations) over the last ca. 12,500 years. This proposition highlights the malleability of the concept of identity and contradicts the school of thought that sees “us versus them” identity formation as a long-standing innate tendency. This chapter considers how social identity can contribute to peace when it is employed in inclusive and unifying ways, in contrast to exclusionary and dehumanizing ways. This occurs, for example, within non-warring peace systems, when additional overarching identities are developed in the service of peace. It is suggested that explicitly teaching global citizenship can contribute to raising a peaceful world. Published in the Strungmann Forum Reports Series.

Keywords:   social identity, social organization, non-warring peace systems, global citizenship, childhood development

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