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Taking sides and constructing identities: reflections on conflict theory

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Abstract

Conflicts are often explained in terms of the interests of the groups involved, especially their competition for resources or gains. There is much merit in this approach. Theories of this type appear more realistic than those which take the legitimizing accounts of participants at face value. What people are fighting about is a fundamental question in conflict analysis, but there is another equally fundamental question that remains poorly understood, namely, who is fighting whom and why? How and why do people draw the distinction between friend and foe precisely where they do?

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