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Graduate Defense: Rachel Koch

April 7 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am MDT

Thesis Defense

Thesis Information

Title: The Conflict of Anthropology

Program: Master of Arts in Anthropology

Advisor: Dr. Shelly Volsche. Anthropology

Committee Members: Dr. John Ziker, Anthropology, and Dr. Kendall House, Anthropology


Anthropology is the systematic study of humanity. This discipline has many goals, such as understanding our evolutionary origins, distinctiveness as a species, and vast diversity of social existence worldwide and through time. The current study looks at the feasibility of combining the theoretical and applied methods of anthropology and conflict resolution to help future anthropologists do better anthropology. I created an interdisciplinary mixed methods study to gauge the compatibility and possibility of integration. Recruiting participants from a conflict management course on having difficult conversations, pre- and post-discussion surveys were given to measure how well narrative inquiry can help those on differing sides of a difficult conversation understand one another. Additionally, participant observations were used to understand the facilitator’s role during these difficult conversations and how that approach works for gaining an insider’s perspective. Both the surveys and participant observations were evaluated to demonstrate the importance of theoretical definitions between the two disciplines. The results show that participants acknowledged the importance of understanding different cultures and experiences during difficult conversations. Many of the participants embraced the process of narrative inquiry by having curiosity during difficult conversations. Having these conversations and being able to have these conversations respectfully was valued. This research supports the value of cultural competency in conflict management training and facilitator participation while also suggesting that anthropology needs to reframe conflict as a potential good. Together, conflict management and applied anthropology can, and should, co-inform inquiry of and between groups in conflict.