Sramana Majumdar

"Violence, Identity and Self-determination: Narratives of conflict from the Kashmir Valley" 4:15 PM, Monday 18 Nov Room 239, BYC Bryn Mawr College

Exposure Index

Tired of paper and pencil questionnaires about integration and intergroup contact? Try the new and improved EXPOSURE INDEX (click tab above on this page).

Conflict and Visual Culture online galleries

Photographer Melanie Blanding is Asch's first featured artist.  Learn more by clicking on one of her images at right.

Photographer Melanie Blanding is Asch's first featured artist. Learn more by clicking on one of her images at right.

Asch’s newest project is up and running!  Under the direction of Associate Director for Conflict and Visual Culture Initiatives Jonathan Hyman, the Asch network is expanding to include photographers, fine artists and filmmakers exploring the interaction between conflict and visual expression.   We look forward to new kinds of collaboration and cross-pollination as a result of this new venture.

To visit our online galleries, click on any of the images in the sidebar.  A description of each artist’s work and contact information is displayed along with the images.  For more information on the CVC project, or to recommend an artist for the online galleries, please contact

Culture and Belonging in Divided Societies: Contestation and Symbolic Landscapes

click on image for more information

click on image for more information

From cartoons of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper to displays of the Confederate battle flag over the South Carolina statehouse, acts of cultural significance have set off political conflicts and sometimes violence. These and other expressions and enactments of culture–whether in music, graffiti, sculpture, flag displays, parades, religious rituals, or film–regularly produce divisive and sometimes prolonged disputes. What is striking about so many of these conflicts is their emotional intensity, despite the fact that in many cases what is at stake is often of little material value. Why do people invest so much emotional energy and resources in such conflicts? What is at stake, and what does winning or losing represent? The answers to these questions are explored in Culture and Belonging in Divided Societies.

Editor Marc Ross is William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor of Political Science at Bryn Mawr College, and co-director of the Solomon Asch Center. He is author or editor of seven books, including Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict (2008, Cambridge University Press).

Apologies and International Reconciliation – Asch seminar Monday 3/23/09

Jennifer Lind

Dartmouth College

Governments increasingly offer or demand apologies for past human rights abuses, and it is widely believed that such expressions of contrition are necessary to promote reconciliation between former adversaries. Lind challenges the conventional wisdom by showing that many countries have been able to reconcile without much in the way of apologies or reparations.

Dr. Lind is the author of Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics(Cornell University Press, 2008).

Poster link:

Kaufmann on partition

Chaim Kaufmann, from Lehigh University’s International Relations department, spoke at Asch on February 24th.  Here is a brief summary:

Academia, human rights organizations, and governments agree: partition is no solution to communal conflict. Indeed partition is just another name for ethnic cleansing   Chaim Kaufmann has a radically different view, based on years of study of dozens of cases.  He argues that, once large-scale communal violence has begun, separation of populations and partition is the best way to reduce loss of life. Applied to Iraq, his argument leads to the conclusion that peace and safety depend on defensible boundaries for nearly homogenous populations of Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurds.  The U.S. should not, however, encourage the Kurds to seek de jure sovereignty because Turkey would not permit it.  The U.S. also should not encourage the Sunni to try to re-unify Iraq; an attempt to re-establish minority control could destabilize the whole of the Near East.  The U.S. should try to remain helpful to the Shi’a majority, who control the rump of Iraq, so that they will not turn to Iran for assistance and may be dissuaded from raising Shi’a insurgencies in oil-rich Gulf countries.  Perhaps most controversial of all, Kaufmann argues that the “surge” has mostly provided secure borders between ethnic enclaves in Baghdad, especially for Sunni enclaves surrounded by Shi’a.  U.S. troops should offer secure transport from these enclaves before quitting Iraq.  Today these ideas are shocking, tomorrow they may seem obvious.  Many lives depend on the right answer.

Political Radicalization: Are We Winning the War of Ideas Against Jihadi Terrorism?

President Jane Dammen McAuliffe

cordially invites you to a lecture by

The Rachel Hale Professor in

Science and Mathematics

Clark R. McCauley

“Political Radicalization:

Are We Winning the War of Ideas

Against Jihadi Terrorism?”

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
4 p.m.
Thomas 110 – Bryn Mawr College

Reception to follow in The London Room, Thomas Hall

Clark McCauley uses a pyramid model of radicalization to argue that sympathy for terrorist goals can be distinguished from support for terrorist attacks.  He presents polling data to show how sympathy and support for terrorism can be tracked over time.  These data indicate that the U.S. is not winning the war of ideas against jihadist terrorism.

Chaim Kaufmann on Iraq after U.S. occupation

Expectations for what will happen if U.S. troops leave Iraq on schedule in 2011 range from a functioning federal Iraq to a client state of Iran to an even larger civil war to genocide. These expectations are based on different understandings of Iraq’s path from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in April 2003 to where we are now. Were opportunities missed to construct a democratic Iraq without disintegration along communal lines? Has the ‘surge’ helped? How much has Iranian interference mattered?
Professor Kaufmann, who has written extensively on communal conflict and its management, will speak on these questions on Tuesday, February 24th, 4-5:30 pm. 

Poster link

Sri Lankan War Nears End, but Peace Remains Distant

Asch Summer Fellow Alan Keenan, who lives in Colombo and works for the International Crisis Group, is quoted in a February 18 New York Times article by Thomas Fuller.

Displaced ethnic Tamils, Feb 7, 2009.

Displaced ethnic Tamils, Feb 7, 2009.

TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka — Just north of here, after a string of recent victories, the Sri Lankan military is closing in on separatist rebels in what it calls the climactic battles of the country’s long-running civil war. But in this heavily militarized port city, there are no signs of jubilation.

Ethnic Tamil civilians waited on Feb. 7 to go to a camp for displaced people. Intense fighting is still expected in the territory that remains held by the rebels, where an estimated 200,000 civilians are trapped.

The government similarly declared victory here in Eastern Province 18 months ago. Though there are clear hints of reconstruction, the fear and lack of development apparent in the area reveal just how far the government still has to go to win the peace, even if its forces ultimately prevail on the battlefield.

The rest of the article can be found HERE.

Insider information on the Gaza War

The author of this Jerusalem Post column is Gershon Baskin, Co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. Excerpt:

Several weeks ago I wrote that the war in Gaza “may have really been a ‘war of no choice.'” Following the recent leaks from the talks about the “imminent” release of Gilad Schalit, I have decided to expose what I already knew before the war began.

Two weeks before Israel launched its attack on Gaza in response to a breakdown of the tahadiyeh (the cease-fire) with three weeks of barrages of Kassam rockets and mortar shells against its civilian population, I had met with a senior Hamas personality in a European capital. This person is connected and in contact with the Hamas leadership in Gaza and in Damascus. Over the past 950 days since the abduction of Schalit, he has transmitted messages for me back and forth to the Hamas leadership in Damascus, including a letter from Noam Schalit to Khaled Mashaal on September 8, 2006 that led to the release of the first sign of life from Gilad, which was received by the Egyptians on September 9, 2006.

We spent several hours talking about the conditions to renew the tahadiyeh. Since the abduction of Schalit on June 25, 2006, my involvement behind the scenes has been in holding unofficial talks with various Hamas leaders in Gaza, Damascus and elsewhere, all seeking to advance the negotiations to bring Gilad home. For two and half years I have been trying to bring about a direct secret back-channel bypassing third party mediators in order to speed up the process.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

How words could end a war

Jeremy Ginges, Asch Summer Fellow, with Scott Atran has contributed an op-ed piece in the New York Times (Sunday, January 25) on the importance of symbolic gestures in international relations.  “There is a moral logic to seemingly intractable religious and cultural disputes. These conflicts cannot be reduced to secular calculations of interest but must be dealt with on their own terms, a logic very different from the marketplace or realpolitik.”

“Whatever it takes”

Asch Summer Fellow Diane Perlman’s open letter to President Obama regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict has been published in the Huffington Post.  She is organizing a group, CONFLICT ANALYSIS PROFESSIONALS FOR ENDURING SECURITY, to develop interdisciplinary strategies and communicate with the media and policymakers.   Her website is

Dr. Perlmans can be contacted at