A communication and cultural codes approach to ethnonational conflict

Donald G. Ellis*, Ifat Maoz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This paper describes a communication and cultural code approach to ethnonational conflicts. More specifically, it describes theory and research emerging from transformative communication events aimed at building constructive relationships between groups as a way to cope with barriers to conflict resolution. The paper accomplishes three goals. First, we describe the conditions of contact necessitated by conflict. These are dialogue groups organized according to principles established by Allport's (1954) contact hypothesis including sustained contact, cooperative interdependence, and norms of equality. Secondly, we state the assumptions of an interactional approach to conflict, which assumes that conflict is, by definition, interactive making communication impossible to avoid. These assumptions also include an emphasis on the relational aspects of communication, and the fact that interaction sequences become patterned over time and become constitutive of the defining characteristics of the conflict. Moreover, the participants are influenced by communication codes, which are culturally based orientations to producing and interpreting interactions. These codes are grounded in the work of Katriel (1986), Carbaugh (1990), Ellis (1994, 1999) and Philipsen (1997) and have implications for the meaning potential of individuals in conflict situations. Finally, we explicate these issues by describing research that is representative of this communication approach to conflict. This research conceptualizes reconciliation-aimed contacts and demonstrates how communication codes are modified by situational constraints.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)255-272
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict Management
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2003


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