It has been a great privilege for to write the lead article for the Berghof Handbook Dialogue series entitled “Transforming War Related Identities”
The series explores the question of how individuals and collectives can come to terms with war memories or trauma after mass atrocities is crucial for framing post-war relationships. But how do the processes on different levels (individual and collective) and diverse dimensions of identity formation relate to each other? How to deal with trans-generational legacies of violence? How can the needs of the victims be served in an appropriate way, and how to address “cultures of victimhood” that stem from past violence?
These questions are discussed by scholars and practitioners, peace activists, psychologists and social scientists in Berghof Handbook Dialogue 11 (ed. by Beatrix Austin & Martina Fischer).
The following contributions are available on our website:
- Brandon Hamber: Dealing with Painful Memories and Violent Pasts. Towards a Framework for Contextual Understanding (lead article)
- Olivera Simic: Dealing with Painful Memories. Walking the thin Line between War and its Aftermath (comment)
- David Becker: Working on the Psychosocial Gap. Challenges, Hopes, Perspectives (comment)
- Undine Whande: Recalling South Africa. Memory Work across Time and Space (comment)
- Andrea Zemskov-Züge: Dealing with the Past in the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict. The Power of Narratives, Spaces and Rituals (comment)
- Brandon Hamber: Grappling with the Stranglehold of the Past Over Time: Response (response)
My contribution analyses diverse approaches for dealing with painful memories and discusses how different dimensions (interpersonal and intergroup relations, individual and collective memories and identities) relate to one another. The chapter builds on experiences from South Africa and Northern Ireland, where Hamber chairs the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) at Ulster University. We asked scholar-practitioners from other contexts to comment on his thoughts. Olivera Simic (Griffith University, Brisbane) and David Becker (Free University, Berlin) focus on working with trauma and reflect on experiences in coping with painful memories in the Balkans. Andrea Zemskov-Züge (Berghof Foundation) brings in examples from the Caucasus (Georgia/Abkhazia) and Undine Whande’s text makes reference to South Africa and to experiences from Germany in dealing with the legacies of the second world war.
You can also purchase the hard copy from Berghof and it includes my response to the above articles, visit here.
This Handbook Dialogue is dedicated to Dan Bar-On, who spent most of his life reflecting on practical approaches for dealing with the past and exploring how people whose lives and identities have been shattered by violence come to live a decent life again.