Mediation and Popular Culture by Jennifer L. Schulz (Routledge, 2020) — Reviewed by Pat Bragg , B.A., B.Ed
What a fun, dense, and important read about mediation! We are deceived at first by the slimness of Dr. Schulz’s stimulating book. This book covers everything important that there is to think about mediation values, practice, and ethics. It adds dimensions of how mediation is viewed through movies and television and how the images of mediators are influenced by what our clients see and hear through popular culture. It is richly referenced to classical and recent mediation texts and articles, and provides an invitation to the reader to reflect again on all we have individually learned and collectively created as a body of literature.
Why do I say it is fun? Reading Mediation and Popular Culture brought back learnings from the earliest and most inspiring developers of modern mediation practice and set them in the current context. I was taken back so many times to my first experiences of these pioneers of mediation—Bush, Folger, Fisher, Ury, Lang, Winslade, Monk, Kolb, LeBaron, Izumi, Picard, Moore, Cloke, Harper, and so many more whose teachings happened through reading or experientially in conferences and clinical demonstrations. I feel inspired to review, re-assess, and integrate everything I have learned in 30-plus years of mediation and training into who I am now as a mediator. What informs my practice? What have I gained from each of these mediators and what have I added on or tossed out? My identity as a mediator is under review in light of the stimulation—both literary and through popular culture—that Dr. Schulz has created.
It is dense. Every page has extensive footnotes, displaying Dr. Schulz’s scholarly expertise and vast research capability and knowledge. She is a true teacher and is careful to share her sources with any new or experienced students of mediation who are lucky enough to find their way to this beautiful book. I read it in big gulps and then had to put it down to think about what I had been invited to consider. I took the questions raised into my everyday practice and use them continually as a means of self-evaluation.
Mediation and Popular Culture is important reading for today. It should be required reading for any student of mediation. All the ethical, ideological, and practical considerations for mediation practice are brought to our attention in the light of movies and television examples that we have seen or can see, including some international examples. Some of the topics raised and explored include: How to keep the process “fair.” What is the role of mediator intuition (the artistry and magic of mediation)? What are the dangers of shuttle mediation and caucusing? How do mediators address feelings, both clients’ and their own? When does diplomacy become deception? How can mediators abuse their power? Do good results justify the mediator’s abandonment of transparency, the use of deception or manipulation?
The last words of the book are “Let’s do that.” The author was talking about letting the world know who and what we mediators are and what we can do to create more peace and harmony in the world, with better and more durable solutions to problems. Mediators can start by examining, knowing, and owning their own practice. We can continually ask the big questions and learn from each other and improve. Mediation and Popular Culture provides a wonderful structure for the pursuit of excellence.
Pat Bragg, B.A., B.Ed
Pat Bragg, B.A., B.Ed worked as a mediator in human rights, personal injury, and family mediation for over 30 years. She is currently president of Mediation Yukon and has served on numerous boards of mediation organizations – locally and nationally. Pat facilitates mediation trainings in the Middle East, Turkey and Canada. Bio: https://www.northernfocus.ca and https://patbragg.ca