The three day international symposium from March 15-17, 2008 titled Dialogic Explorations: Texts and Contexts formed part of an attempt to alter the dominant state centered discourse on conflict and peacemaking by grounding it within a more holistic and inclusive framework of human security.
The symposium brought together some sixty scholars, practitioners from different parts of the world along with WISCOMP Scholar of Peace fellows, to reflect upon the possibilities and limits of dialogue as an integral element of democratic practice. The symposium, engaged with the spaces for dialogue in the context of ethnic political conflict and more broadly as an approach to augment practices of coexistence in multicultural societies. There was an attempt to examine why and to what extent dialogue is increasingly being replaced in the public and civic space by stridency, discord and sectarianism. With conventional practices of consensus building increasingly under strain, the limits and possibilities of dialogue as a philosophy, methodology, process, strategy, and/or tool was explored.
The symposium focused on the lessons to be learnt from successful or thwarted dialogue processes from across the world. The attempt was to squarely locate it within the possibilities of the democratic and participatory framework and explore how policy and practice can be optimally impacted by according priority and public legitimacy to dialogue processes. This was considered relevant both for conflict transformation and peacebuilding and, more importantly, conflict prevention in the South Asian region that is increasingly perceived as conflict prone.
International participants included Harold Saunders (USA), Mari Fitzduff, ( Ireland), Vasu Gounden ( South Africa), Javed Jabbar (Pakistan), Fatema Yousuf (Bangladesh), Mohammad Osman (Kenya), David Malone (Canada) and Visaka Dharmadasa (Sri Lanka). Indian participants included Aruna Roy, Ranabir Samaddar, Shrivatsa Goswami, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and several others.