Research News

Apology and forgiveness in resolving conflicts; Experts come to Vanderbilt to learn how apology and dispute resolution interact with law

Violent crime, racial oppression, ethnic tensions, mass atrocities and transitioning societies are all volatile situations that could be helped with effective conflict resolution techniques, including apology and forgiveness. But the complex emotional transition necessary for effective conflict resolution becomes even more complicated in the context of group conflicts. A conference being held at Vanderbilt Law School on March 30-31 will provide a unique opportunity to explore trends in conflict resolution.

A broad spectrum of experts, including scholars, mediators, and social advocates, will come together at Vanderbilt to discuss ways for groups to successfully put research on apology and conflict resolution into practice and to infuse practical knowledge back into theory.

“There’s a large body of research in the areas of psychology, sociology, philosophy, religious studies and law focusing on apology, forgiveness and reconciliation in relationships, such as those between a victim and his or her offender or between husband and wife,” said Erin O’Hara, a professor of law at Vanderbilt and co-organizer of the conference. “We’re interested in determining the extent to which this body of knowledge can be applied in dealing with conflicts between groups.”

Some examples of possible topics include complications in racial hostilities, forgiveness after atrocities like the Holocaust and helping resolve group conflicts in countries in major transition, like South Africa or parts of Eastern Europe.

The conference will also hold discussions on dealing with both violent and non-violent disputes, the power of apology and how it can be used in law, the social psychology of group conflict and the challenges groups face in transitioning toward reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.

The conference will also honor a civil rights pioneer who has continually found positive ways to help with dispute resolution. On March 30 The Rev. James Lawson, Vanderbilt Distinguished University Professor, will talk about his impact on the civil rights movement. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. hailed Lawson as “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.”

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Media Contact: Amy Wolf, (615) 322-NEWS