Political Insults: How Offenses Escalate Conflict

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9780199372812: Political Insults: How Offenses Escalate Conflict

Five women entered the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow and began a performance of a "Punk Prayer." Young people fried eggs on the eternal flame near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ukraine. A small island in the Japan Sea provoked a diplomatic spat between the leadership of Japan and South Korea. All of these incidents are examples of politically motivated insults that escalated into surprisingly significant clashes.

While the field of conflict analysis has looked extensively at the dynamics of insults between individuals, it has largely ignored the more complicated dynamics of insult committed between groups, often of uneven political and social power. In this book, Karina V. Korostelina offers a novel framework for analyzing the ways in which seemingly minor insults between ethnic groups, nations, and other types of groups escalate to disproportionately violent behavior and political conflict. Insult can take many forms. Yet, as this book shows, it is always a social act mutually defined between groups, and it has the power to destabilize and redefine social and power hierarchies. Korostelina identifies six different drivers of political insults, producing a theoretical model for analyzing intergroup insult and conflict. She uses her model to explore each of the incidents above, among other recent conflicts, to explicate the complicated dynamics that figure within them. The book concludes with practical suggestions for analyzing and resolving complex conflict situations.

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About the Author:

Karina V. Korostelina is Associate Professor and Director of the Program on Identity, History, and Conflict at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.


"This book provides a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the wide variety of political insults that so often destructively escalate social conflicts. Karina Korostelina's case studies demonstrate the dynamics of insults as they are shaped by the interaction between members of in-groups and out-groups. The book abounds with insights, for example relating to the benefits that in-groups derive from being insulting. She also usefully discusses ways in which political insults can be dealt with so as to mitigate their dangerous consequences."-Louis Kriesberg, Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies, Syracuse University

"Political Insults is engaging, insightful, and very well written. Korostelina guides the reader through well-chosen case studies by using a novel conceptual framework for understanding the role of political insults in conflict. I recommend this book to students, researchers, and teachers interested in political behavior and intergroup conflict."-Fathali M. Moghaddam, author of IThe Psychology of DictatorshipR

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