Peter Coleman

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

...These are non-linear systems and I think that we're foolish if we think that we can go in and intervene in a certain way and see the long term effects without having all kinds of unintended consequences that we could've never imagined. So I think that, and Lederach has said this for years, but that this requires a profound sense of humility. That these are extremely complicated places and that if we have some fantasy that we have some magic bullet or set of bullets to go in and work here we're misleading ourselves and them because these are very complicated places to work in. Politically complicated and economically distraught and all these other things, but just complex systems.


Herb Kelman talks about monolithic identities that people's ethnicity and religion and profession all becomes relevant to the conflict. Those are tightly coupled systems and you can't see a change anywhere without it having an effect on the other end of the system. You push here; you see an effect there. So I know that it's discouraging for somebody who's trying to go work on the ground but I think that safest thing that you can say is that a) you have to have humility in working with systems and b) we don't want to speak too prematurely about the implications of the research until we are better informed.