Societies gradually emerging from violent conflict face multiple challenges when it comes to dealing with the transgressions of the past and rebuilding the future. The overwhelmingly dominant approach in contemporary conflict resolution is to confront memories and narratives of conflict with a view to find consensus and promote reconciliation. This approach typically forces divergent, uncomfortable perspectives to the margins and may depoliticise or silence any critical continuities of conflict. Importantly, conflicts are not always overtly violent, but they are always about contradictions. This working group aims to develop ways of creating space for bringing together diverging circumstances, perspectives, experiences and practices into continued contestation and open-ended dialogues. We conceptualize the “slow transformation of conflict” as a form of peacebuilding, which is always a process, never an event.
The overwhelmingly dominant (and arguably unsuccessful) approach to confronting “difficult pasts” in such challenging contexts is one that seeks to find consensus and reconciliation while focusing on conventional notions of collective memory. It typically forces divergent, uncomfortable perspectives to the margins and provides the requisite space and material for destructive forces to exploit the politics of memory and create serious impediments to the consolidation of peace.
Through the creation of agonistic platforms, particularly in museums and education spaces, this approach encourages the cultivation of narrative hospitality for radical multiperspective. In doing so, it cultivates capacities in post-conflict societies to reduce the manipulation of difficult histories for the perpetuation of division. Instead, the past becomes a source for understanding critical continuities that can bridge the gap between then and now and better equip contemporary societies facing up to the challenges of grand-scale socio-economic transformations.
WG4 will develop an innovative and multi-faceted approach for post-conflict societies in their quests to come to terms with their difficult pasts. The aim will be to create agonistic platforms that will bring different experiences and interpretations of the past together for continuing contestation in a shared symbolic space. Here, deadly enemies can become legitimate adversaries and hegemonic narratives can be challenged by a myriad of memories. The model developed, with a core focus centred around oral history, community work, the museum sector and education, will feed into ongoing debates on peacebuilding and will be deployed to influence grassroots practice as well as policy-level decisions in diverse post-conflict contexts.
Accordingly, WG4 will focus on outreach and engagement with actors in education and museum curation. It will consider alternative modes of staging and memorializing the past outside of the reconciliation paradigm. Through close collaboration with stakeholders, WG4 will explore the relevance of the slow memory approach for approaching the ways in which conflict is inscribed within local and national heritage projects, and the practical frameworks in which their broader impacts might be evaluated.
Banner credit: Sara Dybris McQuaid