ISSN 2330-717X

Understanding conflict


Security is a broad concept, operating at many levels from the individual to the global. New research will examine the causes of insecurity which include criminal and terrorist activities in order to better understand how security can be enhanced.  The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is pleased to announce the successful funding of a project on Ritual, Community and Conflict under the Large Grant Open Competition 2009/10.


Researchers at Oxford University will lead an interdisciplinary team of global experts in carrying out field studies and controlled experiments on exploring how ritual contributes to intergroup conflict and violence. The research will be conducted in a number of conflict and post-conflict regions including Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Nepal, and Colombia.

Professor Harvey Whitehouse comments: “In order to better understand and address the threat of terrorism, civil war, and genocide, it is necessary to understand the forces that bind and drive human groups. This five-year programme of research investigates one of the most powerful mechanisms by which groups are formed, inspired, and coordinated: ritual”.

The project will investigate why people perform rituals together and how this affects their willingness to put the group first – even, in extreme cases, to die for the group. Professor Whitehouse explains: “A fuller understanding of the mechanisms involved in the formation of warring groups is urgently needed to advance conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and peace-building efforts. We will work closely with policy makers and international actors like the UN to ensure that the research contributes directly to public policy and international practice”.


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