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Relational Transformation and Agonistic Dialogue in Divided Societies



In societies emerging from conflict and violence, achieving a peaceful political settlement is an important goal. In most situations, however, achieving this goal is not enough to transform underlying conflicts rooted in history and identity. Rather, it is understood that what is needed in such situations is ongoing effort towards the transformation of underlying historical and relational conflict. But while high profile events such as truth commissions often become the public focus of a reconciliation process, in fact much of the effort towards conflict transformation takes place in lower profile dialogue processes. This article theorises a model of agonistic dialogue required for relational conflict transformation in divided and post-violent conflict societies. Described here as ‘sustained, intensive relational work’, this model draws from theories of agonistic democracy to argue for dialogue processes that are focused on engaging across deep differences in ways that can facilitate an enlarged understanding among former enemies.