Conference Report – Working Group 4: Transformation of Conflict
Location: Portland, Dorset
Date: June 6-10, 2022
Jovan Ivanović (University of Belgrade) & Muireann Prendergast (South East Technological University, Ireland)
During the first in-person meeting of the Slow Memory network on the Island of Portland, members of Working Group 4: Transformation of Conflict participated in three workshops under the leadership of co-chairs Sara Dybris McQuaid and Orli Fridman. These workshops involved conceptual and methodological sessions as well as engagement with practitioners from heritage and peace building sectors.
The first WG4 workshop was facilitated by Chris Reynolds, and we discussed different conceptual issues related to slow memory. The main questions were: 1) understanding of “conflict”; 2) approaching “eventless” memory; 3) the “slowness” of slow memory. The three questions sparked rich debate on how to think about the conflict transformation through the lens of slow memory, but also what slow memory means in the context of studying conflict. Drawing from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, the group offered intriguing ideas about manifestations of conflict we observe with “slowing down the memory”, how “slow” could signal both deliberate attention and resistance, and how “eventless” doesn’t necessarily presuppose excluding events. In order to give a concrete form to a productive discussion (and help us “stay on the ground”), we concluded to prepare four working papers on reception, the transformation of conflict, events and time.
Facilitated by Sara Dybris McQuaid, the second WG4 workshop hosted Paul Mullan, Director of the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Northern Ireland and Vesna Teršelič, Director of Documenta in Croatia. Both Paul and Vesna presented substantial contributions of their centres in dealing with the past and promoting more ethical remembering in societies burdened with a history of recent violence. They also showed us how authorities in different post-conflict societies could provide or restrict support to such memorialization efforts. In essence, Paul’s and Vesna’s presentations inspired us to think of how slow memory looks in practice, which was quite evident in the lengthy discussion that ensued.
In the final WG4 workshop in Portland led by Tea Sindbæk we explored methodological approaches to Slow Memory. Key questions posed included “What is Slow Memory in our work?” “Where is Slow Memory?” and “How can we study it?” Each Working Group member was invited to share an example of empirical data to respond to these guiding questions. The range of presentations and proposed methodologies discussed, including ethnography, questionnaires, murals, artifacts, spaces, and oral histories, showcased the diversity of participants’ approaches while highlighting the wealth of evidence and processes around Slow Memory researched. Further discussion explored how Slow Memory is represented in data selected. Here, key concepts that emerged included “inertia,” “accumulation,” “trust,” “presence,” and “responsibility.” Some key takeaways from the workshop include the importance of acknowledging that people and communities remember at different paces, that we need to recognise the burden of memory in Slow Memory processes and the imperative to adopt principles of care in our work as researchers.
These three workshops served to construct rich conceptual and methodological frameworks for future discussions, forge links with key stakeholders and identify shared values and goals for the Working Group.