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Identity Change in Jewish-Muslim Inter-Group Contact: A Longitudinal Study of Two Inter-Group Dialogue Programs


While inter-group contact (Allport, 1954) has long been supported as an avenue toward reconciliation (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2000; Maoz, 2011), recent studies have called into question the benefits of contact programs for minority and underprivileged groups. These studies question if those with less power show reductions in prejudice due to their needs for social justice being subsumed by the majority group’s needs and desires (Nadler & Shnabel, 2008; Saguy, Pratto, Dovidio, & Nadler, 2009; Tausch & Becker, 2012). If so, surface level prejudice reduction may not represent reconciliation. As this critique hinges on psycho-social identity change, this dissertation investigates social identity change within two inter-group contact programs.

Two cases are studied: NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change and The Olive Tree Initiative (OTI). Both of these programs bring Jews and Muslims together in facilitated dialogue within the United States, where both groups are religious minorities. NewGround is located in Los Angeles and brings adults together over a period of months in a series of facilitated dialogues. OTI works with college-age students from mainly CA universities. OTI includes both educational sessions and a trip to the Middle East.

A mixed-methods data gathering and analysis approach, including surveys and interviews, is used in this dissertation. The data set was collected from 2010 to 2014 longitudinally, with pre-program and post-program interviews and surveys by cohort. The resulting data set was analyzed in a longitudinal paired-sample design to understand how each individual changed over the course of the programs studied. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis was used to analyze the interview data. This analysis demonstrated that participants saw identity as a key theme in their experience of inter-group contact. The dissertation later looks more specifically at two key identity-based variables within the survey data set. Statistical analysis shows significant positive changes in identification with both the original in-group and out-group, and similar changes in self-perceptions of efficacy, for participants of both the NewGround and Olive Tree Initiative programs.

Further, gender moderates these results. Men in both programs demonstrated significant positive changes and, in most cases, lower starting values, in identification with the other. Conversely, women demonstrated significant positive changes including, in most cases, lower starting values on self-efficacy measures and then higher degrees of positive change in that dimension.

Implications for the findings and future work are discussed, including how these findings inform literature on the role of women in peace building and future work examining long-term post-program retention of social-identity-based psychological changes and their political results.

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