What is Reconciliation?

Reconciliation is a buzzword within the realms of peacebuilding and transitional justice – the ‘must have’ of any response to atrocity or authoritarianism rule. Reconciliation is, however, often seen as being an opaque concept, devoid of any static or transcendental meaning. However this doesn’t mean that a dominant (or perhaps archetypal) definition hasn’t entered the peacebuilding lexicon. Rather, then, than there not being a common understanding of what reconciliation is, too often what this common understanding means is ignored or left unsaid. With this the politics of the term (and any projects associated with it) is lost. The purpose of this page is, then, to explore the politics behind understandings of reconciliation, and to provide a space where by different, and dissenting, perspectives on reconciliation can be presented.

One of the first findings that has emerged from the project is that there is a reluctance (and at times outright hostility) amongst activists and members of post-conflict communities to be associated with what is now understood as the deeply problematic term of reconciliation. This appears particularly true amongst artists working within these settings who at times associate reconciliation with an imposed, outsider political and institutional agenda rather than as aligned to the work they do that is rooted in listening to the experiences and stories of post conflict communities.

This page, then, also seeks to present the views of those that see that reconciliation as something to be rejected and resisted. How do these groups imagine reconciliation? And why is reconciliation seen as a threat or an unhelpful goal? What is it that they see their work does, and how might this offer new perspectives on how reconciliation can be imagined.

The page will include both the thoughts of the project members on these issues, exploring reconciliation from a number of perspectives (post-structuralist, gender, etc), but we also seek to present the views of those that we encounter throughout the project, in the form of blog entries, podcasts and, hopefully, more creative approaches to research dissemination. But as outlined on the homepage, we also want this to be a dynamic site whereby readers and interested parties have a space to offer your views. So we strongly encourage you to leave comments on anything on the page, and if you wish to offer your own view on this then please contact us here.