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Reconciliation and remembering: (how) does it work?

Rigney, Ann
June 4, 2015

Source: (2012) Memory studies 5(3) 251-258

Public acts of remembrance are as much about shaping the future as about recollecting the past.
This interplay between recollection and future-building has been implicit in much of the work done
in the field of cultural memory in the last years. It has been explicitly at the core of the burgeoning
field of transitional justice, informed as it is by the belief that future peace and stability depends
crucially on finding ways of ‘coming to terms’ with past violence. This special issue, brought
together by three editors from different disciplines, aims to bring debates within memory studies
and in the field of transitional justice into a more intense dialogue. A central concern is with critically
analysing, from a multidisciplinary perspective, the interplay between the many practices of
public remembrance in post-conflict societies in relation to their impact on social relations and
individual subjects.1 The mnemonic practices examined include the cornerstones of discussions in
transitional justice – legal tribunals, truth commissions, official apologies, reparations – but go
beyond these cornerstones to include other, less-codified forms of commemoration (memorials,
museums, street performances and the arts) that operate sometimes in conjunction, sometimes in
tension, with legal procedures and that are often initiated by non-governmental actors. By exploring
the interplay between these various forms of remembrance in relation to the fault-lines dividing
particular societies, this special issue gives fresh insight into the multilayeredness of memory and
the complex socio-cultural dynamic between remembrance and present-day alliances. Taken
together, moreover, the articles also reveal some of the fault-lines within the reconciliation scenario
itself, by addressing not just the practices and outcomes of reconciliatory acts of remembrance,
but also the discourses surrounding them.


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