The field of conflict resolution has moved from “alternative dispute resolution” to

“conflict transformation” over the past twenty years that I have been in practice as a

mediator and facilitator of community conflicts. In the past two decades, I am both

heartened by the emerging creative approaches and language to describe our work and dismayed at the increasing emphasis on formality and professionalism. I fear that the trend toward formality and professionalism may one day mean the work of transforming conflict is done only by a small circle of highly trained professionals. When in fact, any hope of

reducing conflict in our communities relies on, no – demands, that the skills, tools and

approaches to transforming conflict be widely accessible and freely administered.

This research study highlights one example of how we might make our approaches

to address conflict in communities more readily accessible, understood and valued. It

focuses on rural community conflict through a case study in the US and the use of informal

social relational approaches to the conflict. The research engaged practitioners to reflect on

why we do or do not use approaches that are more informal. In this inquiry, I have used

food in its real and metaphoric form as a symbol for how to make a conflict intervention

process informal, relational, and thus accessible and sustainable.

In this research, I have juxtaposed the meaning of food, rural culture in the US and

conflict intervention techniques in a yet undocumented way. The research encourages

practitioners to drill deeper into the sub cultural context of a community conflict, highlights

the underlying gender issues relating to food-centered interventions and challenges

practitioners to design, employ and advocate for creative, relevant, caring approaches to

conflict interventions in rural communities.


Peace and Conflict Studies | Rural Sociology