"When we think about leadership with regard to identity conflicts," says Rohee Dasgupta, our instructor at St. Paul University, "we often think about executive leadership." This is true, she goes on, but there are other forms of leaders – especially when we look at things from a conflict resolution perspective.
There can be practitioner leaders, mid-ranking leaders, leaders of civil society groups or intervention teams. There are media leaders and religious figureheads and representatives of ethnic groups or families. They all have their place within the social contexts they come from, and they all can shape the way that information moves within their communities. In previous classes we've talked about how narratives
or concepts of nationalism
impact how conflicts emerge and consolidate themselves, and today we'll be focusing on leaders, information and censorship.
All these factors look different in different places – some countries are liberal democracies with a relatively free press, others range from soft-authoritarian to authoritarian to dictatorial. What is or is not encouraged in public discourse is often linked to policy goals of the government in power, although social, religious or other special interest groups can have a great influence on what society deems appropriate to say or not. In cases where large numbers of people don't agree with these values or regulations, grievances develop that can grow into protests or more organized forms of resistance.
In cases, however, where these groups do not organize, or are too weak to do so, they may not be able to respond in cases when either the government or a particular group starts dehumanizing them. As we've seen in the Balkans or in Rwanda, these group-wide targeting campaigns can boil over into genocide or other crimes against humanity. Determining who is and is not responsible is a task for local and international courts, and it is far from a simple task.