Date of Graduation

Fall 2011

Degree

Master of Arts in Communication

Department

Communication

Committee Chair

Charlene Berquist

Keywords

community conflict, intractable conflict, systems, coordinated management of meaning, conflict perceptions, conflict management, Commercial Street

Subject Categories

Communication

Abstract

This case study examines how conflict and conflict management are perceived by stakeholders and explores best practices that emerge for intractable, multi-party community conflict. A coordinated management of meaning framework situates the study in social constructionism. Observations and in-depth interviews uncovered several major themes. First, conflict is manifested in opposing perceptions and value systems that affect how the conflict has evolved. Perceptual differences are embodied in two primary internal tensions (the old era versus the new era, and opposing worldviews on C-Street) and in two primary external tensions (C-Street versus the larger community, specifically the northside of town versus the southside). Related and ongoing tensions include stakeholders' struggles to restore a positive image, the management of uncertainty as a result of the conflict, and three minor but persistent negative metaphors associated with the conflict. Conflict management strategies include both indirect and direct strategies, which are manifested in four dialectics of conflict escalation and de-escalation: withdrawing versus engaging, passive acceptance versus active dialogic communication, the old way versus the new, and service providers leaving the conflicted area versus service providers staying. From this case study, best practices for similar, intractable community conflict are developed. The findings emphasize the role that neglecting opposing perceptions plays in perpetuating conflict and suggests healthy practices for practitioners in assessing and managing conflict.

Copyright

© Theresa Marie Lochhaas

Campus Only

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