Karina Korostelina, a professor of conflict analysis and resolution in Mason’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, conducts research with global implications that not only applies to countries and groups in conflict but societies as well.
She tells Mason President Gregory Washington that Ukraine’s war with Russia, at its end, will present enormous problems with the reconciliation of people and territories. A look behind the scenes at Korostelina’s remarkable research and what it tells us about human nature and how we can find peace after conflict.
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Trailblazers in research innovators in technology and those who simply have a good story all make up the fabric. That is George Mason University. Where taking on the grand challenges that face our students graduates in higher education is our mission and our passion. Hosted by Mason President Gregory Washington. This is the Access to Excellence podcast
Gregory Washington (00:26):
At George Mason University, we are on a relentless quest to transform the world, and that means we don't necessarily play it safe. Karina Korostelina is the epitome of that, the Professor of Conflict Analysis and resolution at George Mason's, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution is a tireless advocate for peace and reconciliation on a global scale. A social psychologist whose work focuses on the dynamics of identity and power and protracted social conflicts. Dr. Korostelina was recently in Poland interviewing Ukrainians displaced by war with Russia, and she was doing this for a study funded by the National Science Foundation called the Cost of Peace War Experience, territorial Loss and Peace Agreement Consensus in Ukraine. She was in Rwanda for the World Conference on Reconciliation, which is put on by the International Association of Reconciliation Studies of which she is vice president. And in Kenya, Dr. Korostelina is part of a three-year project to revamp the way the US State Department mitigates conflicts between groups and countries. In addition, she has had 11 residential fellowships, including the Fulbright, the Rockefeller, and with the Woodrow Wilson Center. And her research has been supported by 46 grants. That's an impressive resume. Karina Korostelina, welcome to the show.
Karina Korostelina (01:53):
Thank you very much. It's such an honor, but also a great pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Gregory Washington (01:58):
Well, outstanding. Well look, we're gonna jump right into this. This is obviously a really, really important topic in light of current events. So set the basic stage here. You are Ukrainian from Crimea, is that correct? Yes.
Karina Korostelina (02:12):
I was born in Crimea. I went to university and got my degrees in Kyiv, and it's very, very emotional of course for me. But it's also given me opportunity to deeply dig into dynamics of conflict.
Gregory Washington (02:32):
I found that when your research hits close to home and in your case physically, so it provides an extra motivation to deal with the difficult times when a proposal might be rejected or you didn't get a fellowship that you want, or you got a graduate student or an undergraduate who's struggling to understand and learn a concept. And it's frustrating trying to get them to understand what's happening. You can look back and say, Hey, but I'm in this business for this reason, and so I want to commend you on your life's work is actually solving a global problem.
Karina Korostelina (03:10):
Thank you. And uh, you're completely right. First of all, then you submit proposals. You do not receive all of them. So I always tell my students in academic, life is full of rejections. You, you have to be ready for it. But you have to understand that every rejection is an opportunity to improve your proposal, opportunity to develop a better article. And that's why we have this great ability to really receive a lot of projects and develop them in a way which supported by the major foundations.
Gregory Washington (03:44):
Now, you haven't been to Ukraine since the conflict started. Is that accurate? Yes. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Okay. So how do you conduct your research given that you're not really accessing the country?
Karina Korostelina (03:55):
My way of doing research in multiple countries, including Ukraine, is always to support as much as possible local scientists, local researchers, local students. So when we get the grant from National Science Foundation, all data, and we conducted more than 2,300 surveys and 90 in-depth interviews with refugees and people affected by war, all of them were conducted and collected by local research institutions and scholars and students. But at the same time, for me, it's very important in interpretation to stay as close to results, to stay as close as data and the meanings which people produce. So I went to Poland, I went to Czech Republic several times to experience speak with refugees, to understand through deep conversation what meaning they attached to particular phrase, to particular ideas, which really helped me in my interpretation of results.
Gregory Washington (05:00):
Well, you talk about the local connection, and that's an interesting concept because the reality is what you see in many conflicts is a tendency towards kind of a homogeneous identity and the Ukrainian conflict. This war is very interesting in that you mentioned earlier from Crimea, right? Well, Crimea was annexed by Russia even before this conflict started, and there are significant populations of Russians in Crimea as well as other groups. So when you start to talk about local, how is that playing out? Because the individuals in Crimea, would they be in support of, would they be against what's happening in the rest of the Ukraine? How do those pieces meld when the population is mixed?
Karina Korostelina (05:48):
Yeah, this is a very, very good question because what we notice in multiple conflicts, especially then it's evolved war intervention. Then it's involved mass violence, that societies tend to become more homogeneous because they do need to come together to address threats, to address war dynamics. But in this process of homogenization, voices of different minorities are silenced. For example, in Ukraine, now, of course there is a strong patriotic feeling in my research, but also in the research of other scholars, we see huge increase in importance of Ukrainian national identity. But unfortunately in the same time, it's hijacked by people who represent national identity as just ethnic, only Ukrainian, not given voices to other people being contributors and loyal contributors to the nation. Because the difference between ethnic and national is very important. That's why it's create a lot of problematic dynamics within the country, not just Ukraine, but we see it in Georgia. We see it all over the world.
Gregory Washington (07:04):
Right, my understanding in Georgia though it's a little different. There is a real underpinning of backlash against the Russians in Georgia, in Crimea, which is part of Ukraine. At least on the surface, it doesn't seem that there's as much resistance. I don't want to use the word acceptance, it might be too strong of a word, but there is clearly some homogeneous identity that has been adapted to over the years that led up to this conflict. Is that accurate?
Karina Korostelina (07:34):
Crimea is a very interesting case. So there are a lot of people who share Russian cultural identity, but it doesn't mean they are loyal to Russian state. It's a very different type of identity, very different types of connection. And then Crimea was taken by Russian Federation in moment of several hours. People who can leave, again, we have to understand that leaving the country, it means that you have to be ready to find job another place. You have to be healthy, right? If you're sick, you could not really live. If you are old, you could not live. So only people who could live, they left as much as they can. Those who remained, not all of them loyal and want to be in Crimea, many of them just could not move. But also resistance, in Russian Federation, it's very hard. I read these three interviews for people who were under Russian occupation now in three territories and the level of terror, level of control, killing people, torturing people. I hosted a group of Ukrainian women who were tortured by Russian soldiers just because they were somehow protesting or just were wives of soldiers. The level of terror, it's unbelievable. So for people to resist, you have to have a lot of real courage and not every person can. So that's why the whole issue of reintegration of territories, which will come up pretty soon, as soon as Ukraine will free more and more territories will be one of the key issue for Ukrainian.
Gregory Washington (09:16):
This whole idea of integrating territory is one that's gonna be a difficult one, right? How dangerous is it for a country not to see itself as a multicultural entity and then listen to the voices of some minority groups in order to make itself whole?
Karina Korostelina (09:32):
It's very dangerous because we just completed a very interesting study, which was lead, actually it's continue. We bring it on the next level, but the study was analysis of 15 peace processes. Across the globe. And I conducted this analysis based on identity dynamics, which is completely new type of approach. And what I found in addition to many other factors, that if nation creates multicultural or civic—based on connection to the state—identity, that peace processes sustained. If not, if country promote ethnic concept of national identity, peace processes fail.
Gregory Washington (10:14):
So they fail if they have some national identity?
Karina Korostelina (10:20):
They fail if there is an ethnic concept of national identity, if only one group have control over other groups. If other minorities perceived as less capable or less able or the access to power and resources defined by ethnicity, then peace processes failed because it's, it's not inclusive society.
Gregory Washington (10:43):
That is phenomenal. That is such a nascent concept. I don't know if people really catch what you just said there, because that is not just true for countries. I think that's true for societies in general. I mean, I say not for countries, I mean not for countries who are undergoing conflict, right? I think in general, inclusive societies work best and societies that are ruled or dominated by one group, especially if that group is not a overwhelming significant majority leads to conflict and problems. I think you're really, really onto something with this line of work.
Karina Korostelina (11:23):
Yeah, you're completely right. And I'm glad that you brought Mason because we always speak Mason Nation, right? And the idea of the nation, as you know, we were developed during Middle Ages as was really connection to one students of the university, which self-, self-govern around themselves. And this really brings us to the idea that membership in the nation, it's equal independent of what your ethnicity, race, religion, gender, everyone equal and everyone have equal responsibilities, but also equal rights. And this also can be applied to a nation and development of the nation. So liberal civic concept of the nation is much more important for countries in the war recovering from the war, for example, for Ukraine. So if you counterpose Ukraine as civic liberal nation to totalitarian Russia is much better way to get out of the whole dilemmas of justice and peace and homogeneity and minorities than if you present ethnic Ukrainian nation in comparison with Russian ethnic nation.
Gregory Washington (12:38):
That makes a lot of sense. So let's deal with the proverbial, you would say elephant in the room, but let's make it different. Let's deal with the proverbial bear in the room. If you go through this reconciliation process, if you go through this integration of territory process, because at some point in time this conflict has to end one way or the other, right? How does one trust the Russians after what just happened with Prigozhin? How do you know that influential leaders in Ukraine, influential leaders of this conflict, influential individuals behind the war in the resistance won't be picked off one by one by Russians over time?
Karina Korostelina (13:13):
This is a very, very good question because of course you could not trust Putin regime, but there is a big difference between Putin regime and Russian people and even people in Ukraine realize it. Then we ask in our survey what emotions people experienced about Russian leadership and Russian people. We saw pretty significant difference around hate and anger and other negative emotions, which usually were around 9.8, nine point 10 on a one to 10 scale for leadership. But were around probably seven or eight for people, so it's still very high. But we see the difference and reconciliation process is very long process. And if we will at for example, classic reconciliation between Germany and France, it took years after the violence stop for leaders to start reconciling and still then the proposed reconciliation was a lot of resistance from people. For me it's more important is really reconciliation for now, which is more pressing issue, reconciliation between the territories, which will be freed.
Karina Korostelina (14:28):
And Ukraine itself, because there are a lot of voices invest in Ukraine, which were not mostly affected only by some rocket attack, very negative perception of the people who were under occupied territories accusing them. All of that happened. And again, it's not dynamic unique to Ukraine. You see it in Colombia, you see it in many other countries who undergone situations and territories belong to opposition or to different countries. And this accusation really brings this very strong tension between justice and peace. Are you bringing everyone to justice? How you bring them to justice? You could not put everyone in prison. You need to find mechanism, local mechanisms of accountability on restorative justice, but in the same time mechanism which help to win hearts and minds of people, because if you want them to be loyal citizens, you really need to create for them inclusive, overarching identities they will be happy to live in.
Gregory Washington (15:27):
There's an identity part to that that I get, but there's a second part to this reconciliation piece that I want you to address. You publish a paper examining the meaning of justice in the aftermath of war in Sudan. And in that paper you wrote, your study demonstrates that the respondents also saw the advancement of justice as returning to the peaceful time in the aftermath of war. How do you balance that?
Karina Korostelina (15:54):
This is a very, very deep and great question because together with my colleague Daniel Rothbart, we conducted analysis of over 100 oral stories, oral histories of people affected by violence in Sudan and one unexpected result, but very exciting result of it. That how people perceive the justice really depends not only on addressing violence, but also how they imagine their peaceful time. Usually in court of justice, international criminal court, other juveniles investigations usually concentrates on what is done right, what type of violence were committed, what type of mass violence affected the entire region or what were done to particular individual. But nobody really ask how do you see the peaceful time? And what we found that depending on the region, and we analyzed three regions in Sudan, they had very different perceptions what pieces. For one group, it was really community coherence, very close kinship between people. For other group it was prosperity and economic development. And for another group it was absent of violence and ability of them to move freely. So this three different views, what peace is completely defined, how they see the justice,
Gregory Washington (17:22):
I get that part of it, but if somebody killed your mother, if somebody killed your brother or your sister and you are going through a reconciliation process and these individuals had given up and were shot in the back of the head, there is a crime and a justice aspect to that. And that has to be reconciled too right
Karina Korostelina (17:48):
Now, going to very deep territory and I love it, and I love it. So it's actually very interesting because usually,
Gregory Washington (17:57):
Because this is some of the stuff we're hearing about what's happening in Ukraine.
Karina Korostelina (17:59):
Yeah, exactly. You're completely right. And usually research on how exposure to violence impacts support for peace and reconciliation. We were analyzing impact of violence in the general term. People who under occupation, people who were affected by paramilitary and so on. In research I'm doing right now in Ukraine, we actually measure it, it separately. If you affected and your properties affected, you are displaced or you have somebody killed who you love. And what we found that those who lost property or were displaced, they are more supportive of peace and reconciliation than those who were not. But those who lost a loved one or close friends, they're actually more supportive for continuous fighting. They strongly against any peace negotiation because for them to deal with this trauma, it's very important to create the meaning why it's happened. And the meaning of it is that we need to free all territories and reconciliation will never come.
Karina Korostelina (19:06):
So this is very important dynamic, which were not actually discovered before in science of analyzing war, but will also impact how we deal with reconciliation. Because for this people, you have to bring new meaning. And this meaning can be bringing to justice everyone who is responsible, but this meaning also will be building a new life and given opportunity for their children to enjoy new peaceful life. So it's all usually work with ability of people to address the main important values when they have, and again, it's a very long process which require very targeted, specific approach. You could not apply reconciliation to everyone in the same way.
Gregory Washington (19:51):
I agree with that because there are different experiences with reconciliation as you clearly have highlighted. And the justice part of that I think is still the most difficult part, right? Because when they feel that justice has not been served, they carry a level of revenge with them throughout life and it tends to cause the conflicts to reignite because that feeling of justice that has not been served. And that's the challenge.
Karina Korostelina (20:16):
But it's very interesting that you bring in that, because I just came from Rwanda and I was able to talk to a lot of people there, including minister of national unity, but also with local people and local scholars with people who work in museums. There are multiple museums of genocide and Rwanda. And one of the very important wisdom which came from these people is that yes, you can live with sadness and revenge, but then all your life is there. You live in the past, you will never look in the future.
Gregory Washington (20:49):
No, I understand that.
Karina Korostelina (20:50):
And this is what Rwanda is doing right now. It's really trying to develop vision of the future and pride of a country which we're able to overcome. And this pride as a social identity scholar, I know how much self-esteem important for people to overcome issue related to violence. There are still traumas, of course it's long process, but giving people alternative, looking into common future, this approach that stop looking in the past and you free yourself, right? You free yourself with it, but you have to be sure that justice has achieved it. International institution, national institutions working hard to achieve justice and bring those who are responsible to justice.
Gregory Washington (21:38):
I understand. So as a Ukrainian, how personal is your research in your country?
Karina Korostelina (21:44):
Of course it's very personal and actually science helps to deal with it, because I look at this issue as a scientist, I was very happy that National Science Foundation, I acted very quickly and within several months of beginning of war, we were able to get a grant and start research because then you are analyzing it as a scientific process. It's helped to deal with emotions, but at the same time as I teach my students and because you know at Carter School, students come from all over the world. They all affected by deep conflict. Not only in world, but here in the United States too.
Gregory Washington (22:23):
No, I agree with you.
Karina Korostelina (22:24):
Yes, absolutely. And for many people what they study, it's very personal and it's actually good because they understand dynamics. But it's very important always to reflect how your meaning, how your positions impacted. And there are ways to do it. For example, then I write results, I present it to groups, which I know very opposite in views. And I hear from both of them and see if my research actually pretty objective or if there are my biases, which I did not recognize. it's actually might be interested because speaking about domestic issue, I published just before Trump was elected, unfortunately, but I hope it will be earlier, but took longer. I published the book Trump Effect <laugh>, where
Gregory Washington (23:10):
Karina Korostelina (23:11):
Yes. Where I analyze how he empowers people through different types of aggressions, through different types of insults, through different types of increasing their self-esteem through favorable comparison. So I show multiple mechanisms why people love Trump. And I was speaking about this book, of course I had my bias, but I tried to present this book as objective as possible to be scientific as possible because people who agree with me already agree with me, right. People who disagree with me, if they see my bias, they will never read it. So this is very important to reach across this. As I always tell students, yes, our field is very normative. We want peace, but at the same time we need to reach to people who disagree with us.
Gregory Washington (24:00):
Right. Have you lost contact with any of those you've been working with in Ukraine? Do you know anyone who's lost their lives in the conflict?
Karina Korostelina (24:08):
Unfortunately, yes. Just before we started, I was working with several projects in Ukraine. One was in Kherson, Mariupol and Kharkiv. Everyone now knows these three cities. And I know that several male faculties, which I was working with, were killed. Personally, and I know that a lot of students which we were teaching also were affected.
Gregory Washington (24:32):
So as a scientist, as someone who does research, right, do you find in any way that the emotions of that these are people who you do, who you engage with, who in some cases may have even have been friends. Does it affect how you approach the science?
Karina Korostelina (24:49):
It definitely does, right? We, we are emotional people, but there are special ways how to deal with it. And there are developed social science approaches because we know then we interpret results. We introduce our dominion in it. We are not objective people. So it's very important to always reflect on your biases. And I also teach students to, in every paper they write, have a reflection part, a small outer analysis or uh, anthropological review of yourself, right? Some reflection which show how you belonging to particular group, how you belonging to group, especially, which is affected, especially victimized. How it's affect how you analyze things. And there is a very interesting theory, which I love. It's actually development theory, but I bring it all this to conflict analysis and resolution. Kegan Theory, which describe level of morality and on a thief's level of morality is they you actually able to recognize yourself as a member of different groups and how belonging to groups impact your behavior. And this is the highest level of moral perception, which I hope we develop among our students in the school.
Gregory Washington (26:09):
Oh, that's great. Because if we could help people incorporate or understand how their biases affect their work and that's gonna make them better researchers and better scientists on the back end, if you're a journalist, it's gonna make you a better journalist. If you're a social scientist, it's gonna make you a better social scientist. Right. If you're a psychologist and you're looking at, it's gonna make you a better one. So that's really good stuff to help people work through that as they are learning these issues, right? We have a number of Ukrainian students here at Mason and some of them may make their way through your classes. And in the context of this conflict, they're gonna have to understand, I'm not saying you leave your emotions or you check 'em at the door. No, no, no. You have them, but understand how to utilize them positively in the outcomes that you hope to achieve in the work that you're doing.
Karina Korostelina (26:59):
Yeah. I strongly believe that understanding how your belonging to group impact you, it's very important and it's reflect this. One of the key actually dilemmas of our humanity is this dilemma between security and freedom. If you are free and you want to be free, you have all your perceptions, ideas, values, your own, right? You're free from judgment of other groups and so on. But you are not protected because no group will come and protect you to get protection of the group, you have to join group and become loyal. And loyalty means that you change your own perceptions, ideas belong values to group. Now you feel like group, you perceive like group, your values become group values. And in this dynamic you have to find balance between security you need and freedom you want. And it's okay if you are living in society which have low level of violence, but if you live in society, which has high level of violence, can be structural, it can be cultural, it can be open violence. In this situation, people tend to have protection. So they give up their own freedom, their own thoughts, their own ideas to become protected. They start thinking like group. And the more they think like group, the more they see threat from other groups and the more they see threat from other groups, the more they think like group. So it's become vicious spiral. Which impact dynamics of societies.
Gregory Washington (28:35):
Oh wow. The knowledge you are giving now goes far beyond Ukraine.
Karina Korostelina (28:40):
Gregory Washington (28:41):
So speaking of that, let's take it into the classroom. You have all this information about Ukraine, the war, how people feel about peace and you're in the Carter School. How do you incorporate that into your classroom and how do you incorporate that into teaching?
Karina Korostelina (28:53):
This is great that my ability to travel to get grants and work in multiple countries. I done work in more than 25 countries. I stop counting and I bring it to my classroom. Every time I go to any place, I am able to bring them firsthand information about dynamics of conflict in this particular place. I work was like for example, we just finished a project in Lebanon, which I was working with young people across sectarian divide. And this insights of young people were so useful for me to bring to the classroom. But also it's sometimes help to change the way I teach the class. We had project with Serbia with University of Nis where students in my class and students in Serbia, we actually conducted parallel research on the same topics. And then we had a huge conference last May where students from two countries presented the research related to minorities to dynamics of inclusion. It's a great opportunity that what we doing as researchers, as practitioners, then we're bringing it to our classroom and next by our students.
Gregory Washington (30:05):
One of the things that our students say and what we like to say at Mason is that we are a diverse campus, broadly diverse, fiercely inclusive. We talk about us being the most diverse campus in our state. Because of that, do you find that our students are more open to understanding and overcoming the conflicts that emanate from many of the issues in which you deal with and that being culture and identity?
Karina Korostelina (30:30):
This is so interesting vision because just yesterday I started teaching undergrad class on social identity, culture and conflict. And this is what we had. I asked students, we went around and I asked, what is your exposure to conflict? How you understand conflict? And a lot of them will bring in exactly their racial or ethnic or cultural heritage. It's how it's impacted their life, their feeling of inclusion or exclusion. This was very interesting. Then they interpret conflict, many of them as dealing with diversity and being able to thrive in environments where they appreciate it.
Gregory Washington (31:11):
Right. No, I hear you. If you were to boil down your goals in terms of your classes and what you want to teach, be able to boil that down into a set of outcomes. What do you hope students take away from your classes?
Karina Korostelina (31:26):
I think my major goal is empowerment. Knowledge is just a tool to give students opportunity to make a change. So my major goal is to give opportunity of student to realize that they can make a change. How they can make a change and give the belief that they can do it.
Gregory Washngton (31:45):
Hmm. That's good. I really, really like that. Let's switch gears here one more time. You're part of a project that will basically, for lack of a better way of putting this, recreate the way in which the State Department deals with groups and countries that are in conflict. What is the goal?
Karina Korostelina (32:03):
This is a very exciting project, which we very proud of. I'm PI and I'm working with Susan Allen, who is my colleague at school. So this project concentrate on contact theory and contact theory in two worlds. It's something then describe how we bring different group together to create social cohesion, to address polarization, to create local governments, to enforce civic society. So a lot of resulting from just bringing group together. And what we found in State Department found that it does not really work as it should be. It's not just like you bring people together, they talk and now they change, right? It doesn't work this way. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and a lot of concern about it. So we have three year project, which first to analyze existing literature, bringing a lot of new fields in it, complexified developing new answers and new tools. Aand we now analyzing projects, doing interviews, and next step, extremely exciting when we will go to different countries and do experimental design, see what works better. Let's put group together in this way or in this way. For example, one of the major misrepresentations that you bring groups together, decrease the identity, develop friendship, and then they will go and change their communities. Nope. Doesn't work that way.
Gregory Washington (33:29):
It doesn't work.
Karina Korostelin (33:30):
No. Because they know, see each other as person to person, but it doesn't impact the perception of other group. It's actually re-create, we call this counter stereotypes. Yeah. But actually four stereotypes.
Gregory Washington (33:42):
You, you said something there because I've seen this in my own life, right. So you call it counter stereotypes.And so let me make sure I understand what you're saying here. You're saying, okay, you got two groups of individuals who for whatever reason they don't get along, they don't like each other, different ideologies. You find a way to bring these groups together so that they can have conversations, they can talk, they can engage, but when they go back, they basically make an exception. Mm-hmm. For the people who they built the friendships with. Right.
Karina Korostelina (34:10):
Absolutely. Right. They do not work across divide
Gregory Washington (34:14):
And then, but when they go back, they keep the same beliefs of the group that they had when they came together.
Karina Korostelina (34:19):
Yes. And then
Gregory Washington (34:20):
See I don't that, that's counterintuitive to me.
Karina Korostelina (34:22):
Yeah. This is because they see that all other representative are still very bad. There is some good of them, but it's actually because they close to us and we actually showing how you can bring second level, how you now recategorize, how you bring these identities back in this interaction without destroying the friendship. So how you create dual identity, overarching identity. So the three-step process instead of simplistic one-step process. So then they get back, they actually see others and themselves as a members of the group, but they also see a lot of commonalities between groups and it's changed completely their ways, how they will. It's one of the tools
Gregory Washington (35:09):
What forces them to see the commonalities.
Karina Korostelina (35:11):
Because there are specific tools, for example, deliberations, how you bring deliberations into discussion. There is a tool so called a gateway groups, for example, dual racial those. Or a person who belonged to two different religions somehow wasn't one. One religion or Seymour ability to work across religion. A lot of priests have this ability to understand more reflective way or you bring people who work across national level, for example.
Gregory Washington (35:43):
Now you bring those people into the group.
Karina Korostelina (35:45):
Yes. And they work as a catalyst.
Karina Korostelina (35:48):
Karina Korostelina (35:49):
help. We identify at least nine different tools which can help to recategorize people together, which were not used before. So this, that's is why we're very excited. Exactly. It's will be a new age in contact theory.
Gregory Washington (36:05):
As we begin to wrap up here, you just talked about this whole group dynamics and how to make that work. One of the things that I think has happened, it was always been a part of the American engagement, but more so over the last five to 10 years is the growing use and utilizations of insults. Whether those insults be on social media in the form of memes and the other thing, or whether they just be outright verbal insults, right? We see how that is playing out right here. Donald Trump uses them constantly, right, to denigrate his opponents, and some see him as a strong leader because of his use of insults. It was a very, very different way of engaging people that he had that was different from pretty much every other president preceding him. How do you see insults playing a part in conflict? How do you manage it when it comes time to try to bring people together to resolve and have conflict resolution?
Karina Korostelina (37:05):
You are so right. I also notice this increased dynamics several years ago and I just decided, okay, what we have in social science about insults? And I found that it's actually good news and bad news for me. Bad news, there are no coherent theory to analyze insults. But it's also good news. There are no coherent theories <laugh>. So I can develop one.
Gregory Washington (37:29):
So you can develop that. Yes, exactly.
Karina Korostelina (37:31):
So, and then I published this book with the Oxford University press because I analyze in south as a mutual act on the border between two individuals or two groups, analyze it on different levels, individual, intergroup, international level. And what the key on this theory is that insult is actually indicative of the needs. What particular person insult has people insult, not because they just misbehave or in incivility or something. Insult is representation. What is missing in people needs. For example, those who use identity insult, they have issues with self-esteem. Those who use legitimacy, insult, they have issue with recognizing their own power or being recognized by others. So those who use relative insult, those people have issue with accepting them as equal people. So every time then what this book helped and to realize if you know what insult people are using, you actually can use it against them or together with them if you are willing to work with them and recognizing what their needs are. So you able to bring more negotiation, more abilities to address the conflict. So instead of being just offended by insult, use it as a tool of information.
Gregory Washington (39:02):
Right. Last question. You've seen war, you've studied the human condition and how we're prone to conflict and how we're prone insults. How optimistic are you about the long-term prospects for human existence?
Karina Korostelina (39:17):
Oh, I'm very optimistic. I'm super optimistic. First of all. Yes. What we see now, it's a lot of violence, wars, but if you look into dynamics of mankind through centuries, we in much better place than we were before.
Gregory Washington (39:33):
You know, nobody makes that point. But it is absolutely true. We have progressively gotten better, not worse.
Karina Korostelina (39:42):
Absolutely. Absolutely. Look at it, women have now rights to vote. Women have opportunity, right, to be equal. We look into more progressively accepting gay marriage, for example, right? In multiple countries, the torture is now considered illegal. Uh, there are people responding to the war. Is it perfect? Not yet. But we going there. There are more awareness about more increased and more don't they work with young generation? You know, it's unbelievable. You see results of the projects across the globe, then you see what people develop as a result of us bringing them knowledge and skills. This is what keep us going. People who work in a very, very traumatized situation when it's very hard as a scholars who work in conflicts, we have to recognize we're also traumatized by exposure. But in the same time, ability to see the change is what keep us going. And I have a strong optimism in mankind and I believe we're going into better place slowly.
Gregory Washington (40:47):
I appreciate that. Well, we'll end it on that positive note. And this has been quite a bit in education. You have touched on far more than Ukraine. Thank you to our guest, Karina Korostelina, professor of conflict analysis and resolution in Mason's, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, school of Peace and Conflict Resolution. I am Mason President Gregory Washington saying, until next time, stay safe. Mason Nation.
If you like what you heard on this podcast, go to podcast.gmu.edu. For more of Gregory Washington's conversations with the thought leaders, experts, and educators who take on the grand challenges facing our students, graduates and higher education. That's podcast.gmu.edu.