Reconciling Theory and Practice: Confronting Violent Histories in Poland and Israel-Palestine

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The role of violent histories and their legacies in reconciliation processes has been a central question in debates on reconciliation and nation building after conflict: whether, how, and when painful events should be remembered in post-conflict and post-transition societies. A dominant approach to this question since the 1980s has been the "reconciliation paradigm,"which views addressing violent histories as condition for reconciliation. A comparative study of the implementation in practice of this global paradigm by civil society-based memory activists in Poland and Israel-Palestine raises questions about its applicability. The findings point to two weaknesses: first, mistreatment of asymmetrical violence and power relations between the conflict sides and, second, the lack of systematic consideration of how reconciliation is perceived by local actors in practice. In light of these weaknesses, local memory activists developed alternative strategies to those of the reconciliation paradigm, while governments infused reconciliation with different meanings that impede reconciliation instead of advancing it. Cultivating a sociological approach to reconciliation theory, this article proposes new theoretical modifications that would expand the paradigm's applicability: reciprocity or mutual respect instead of mutual acknowledgments, a normative basis that transcends the liberal boundaries of reconciliation, and an agonistic memory instead of consensus about the past.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberolac023
JournalInternational Political Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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