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Identity, bargaining, and third-party mediation

  • Ray Block (a1) and David A. Siegel (a2)


This paper elucidates a theory of identity formation and applies it to the study of international negotiation. The theory acknowledges that actors/agents can adopt a multiplicity of identities, and it treats changes in the salience of identities as endogenous to the contextually dependent processes of interpersonal and intergroup interactions. Typically, strong identities are viewed as encouraging conflict and exacerbating interstate disputes. Our theory, however, suggests a palliative role for identity: third-party mediation can more effectively resolve conflicts when it enhances shared, if initially less salient, aspects of the disputants’ identities. We discuss several causal pathways through which the process of enhancing identity salience can increase the likelihood of successful conflict resolution, providing a complementary mechanism for the effectiveness of mediation to those extant in the literature. The paper concludes with a practical method for applying the theory's insights to the choice of mediator and the mediator's technique.


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