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A Textbook Case of Parasocial Contact Open Access


Other title
Parasocial Contact Hypothesis
Dual Narrative
Contact Hypothesis
Track Two
Track Two Diplomacy
History Textbook
Learning Each Other's Historical Narrative
Mass Media
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Harder, Ardythe
Supervisor and department
Byrne, Siobhan (Political Science)
Examining committee member and department
Rein, Sandra (Augustana, Political Science)
Wilton, Shauna (Augustana, Political Science)
Department of Political Science

Date accepted
Graduation date
2016-06:Fall 2016
Master of Arts
Degree level
The early 2000s in Israel-Palestine were characterized by a closing of political and social connections, creating a widening divide between the two peoples. Organized efforts to promote an atmosphere conducive to building peace in Israel-Palestine have traditionally focused around two theoretical approaches that are both based on face-to-face communication between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. Contact hypothesis is a grassroots, or bottom-up, approach that focuses on reducing prejudice among individual members of the general population. Track two diplomacy is a top-down approach that aims to reduce prejudice among social elites who will go on to influence policy. These approaches appear to share a goal and, ideally, would work in coordination. However, these approaches are limited in audience and reach. With increasing barriers to face-to-face interactions the audience has become even more limited. These limits result in a failure for these projects to have influence beyond the individual participants as well as a gap between the bottom-up and top-down approaches. In 2002 a group of high school history teachers and peace researchers came together to produce a ground-breaking history textbook with a unique dual narrative format that could bridge this divide and build a route to better relationships. The dual narrative project extends the limits of traditional contact hypothesis and track two diplomacy by producing a physical artifact, the textbook, in an example of parasocial contact hypothesis. Parasocial contact is the mediation of contact through mass media and allows for reaching all levels of the population beyond the limitations of the traditional approaches. Despite the opposition this project generated, it provides a format that can be explored further. Future educational projects both in Israel-Palestine and other social conflicts around the world can use this project as a template. The parasocial contact hypothesis approach is one that should be considered more seriously for future projects due to its potential to circumvent some boundaries that prevent direct contact, and its ability to reach broader populations.
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