The politics of memory and peacebuilding

Authored by: Marc Howard Ross

Routledge Handbook of Peacebuilding

Print publication date:  January  2013
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415690195
eBook ISBN: 9780203068175
Adobe ISBN: 9781135082130


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Collective memory is increasingly discussed as an important feature of large group behavior and it is useful to consider how the politics of memory plays a crucial role in peacebuilding efforts. The focus on memory here is less about the memory of individuals than with the memory of groups especially those involved in long-term, often violent, conflicts. My main goal is to offer a theoretically and empirically useful way to consider collective memory's role in ethnic conflict and its relevance to peacebuilding. This chapter has two parts: the first asks four questions about the nature of collective memory relevant to the dynamics of mobilization and mitigation in contemporary conflict; the second offers six lessons for peacebuilding. The argument is built around two central premises: that the construction of collective memories is a social and political process, and that present needs shape what is told and retained about the past and help explain both continuities and changes in memory over time. Because the content of collective memories and the uses of the past change, we need to focus on the forces that move them in a more or less inclusive direction.

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