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Independent scholarly reporting about conflict interventions: negotiating aboriginal native title in south Australia

Morrison, Judith Ellen (2007) Independent scholarly reporting about conflict interventions: negotiating aboriginal native title in south Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis uses an action research methodology to develop a framework for improving independent scholarly reporting about interventions addressing social or environmental conflict. As there are often contradictory interpretations about the causes and strategic responses to conflict, the problem confronting scholar-reporters is how to address perceptions of bias and reflexively specify the purpose of reporting. It is proposed that scholar-reporters require grounding in conventional realist-based social theory but equally ability to incorporate theoretical ideas generated in more idealist-based peace research and applied conflict resolution studies. To do this scholar-reporters can take a comparative approach systematically developed through an integrated framework as described in this thesis.

Conceptual and theoretical considerations that support both conventional and more radical constructions are comparatively analysed and then tested in relation to a case study. In 2000 Aboriginal people throughout South Australia deliberated whether their native title claims could be better accorded recognition through conservative court processes or a negotiation process to allay deep-seated conflict. The author, in a scholar-reporter capacity, formulated a report attributing meaning to this consultative process.

As such a report could have been formulated according to alternative paradigms, methodological approaches and theoretical frameworks, the analysis of the adopted framework highlights how different approaches can bias the interpretation of the process and prospects for change. Realist-based conservative interpretations emphasise 'official' decision-making processes where legitimacy is expressed through political and legal frameworks based on precedent. Idealist-based interpretations emphasise that circumstances entailing significant conflict warrant equal consideration being given to 'non-official' 'resolutionary' problem-solving processes where conflict is treated as a catalyst for learning and outcomes are articulated as understanding generated about conflict and how different strategies can transform it.

The developed integrated framework approach establishes the independence of scholarly reporting. Its purpose goes beyond perpetuating scholarly debate about alternative 'objective' understandings of conflict; it focuses primarily on communicating a more inclusive understanding of the contradictions inherent in a particular conflict. It increases the capacity to understand when, where, why and how conflict precipitates social change, and articulates possibilities for reconceptualising what might be the more sustainable direction of change.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy
Supervisor(s): Marinova, Dora
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