DEALING WITH TROUBLED HERITAGES. ETHNO-NATIONALIST CONFLICTS AND RECONCILIATION
July 23rd -31st 2021 at Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena
The idea of nationalism and its related vision of a sovereign people in a clearly confined territory has been the driving force of modern times and the foundation of today´s international order. Whilst the original idea – sparked by the American and French Revolutions – was an inclusive, revolutionary and political one, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, it increasingly became a retrograde, exclusivist force featuring conceptions of ethnic purity and culture, while also laying the foundation for racist suppression, and serving as rationale for colonialist expansions. For its double-faced nature famous theorist Tom Nairn has called nationalism the ”modern janus”, Benedict Anderson in his historico-cultural analysis "imagined communities" has vividly outlined the constructed, socio-psychological character of nations. Eventuallly, popular historian Eric Hobsbawm has drawn attention to the strongest pillar of these communities: their common heritage. Since every grand nation needs a grand heritage, as he explains not without irony in his ground-beaking work ”invented traditions”, a nation´s past has often been a constructed one.
Many conflicts and post-conflict settings evolving around contested borders and territories, over minority rights, or power sharing balances have to be seen in their ethno-nationalist dimension. The continuous tensions between Turkey and Greece, the Cypriot division, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the wars following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and the newly sparked conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh have been called nationalist conflicts based on exclusive ethno-religious identities and competing prerogatives of interpretation over contested national heritages.
All of them can be called intractable conflicts to a larger or smaller degree. For they are rooted in decades of simmering tensions with entire generations raised in their spirit. Dominant discourses of educational systems, museums, media and politics are mostly based on mutually exclusive narratives of the conflict history. Some have been frozen for decades, like Cyprus, some characterized by daily dynamics of confrontation and outbreaks of violence, like Israel-Palestine. Yet others have undergone a profound political transition and classified as ”resolved”, or ”post-conflict” like former Yugoslavia and South Africa´s Apartheid. The latter, in fact, has been considered by many as text-book example of reconciliation with regard to comprehensive reappraisal, acknowledgement and compensation for committed injustices. Others, however, have strongly criticized the still existant socio-economic cleavages along ethnic lines. The same holds true for the former Yugoslavia: Peace accords and criminal prosecution that accompanied a profound political transition do not seem to have reconciled the former enimies. Rather, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, one could speak at best of a peaceful coexistence of the communities and a collective memory that is based on competing, mutually-exclusive national narratives.
In view of the above-mentioned, how can contested, sensitive heritages, how can human rights violations and traumata in intractable conflicts and post-conflict settings be sustainably addressed and reconciled?
Drawing on theories of nationalism, intractability and reconciliation, the summer school will discuss these and related questions in a series of case studies. It will shed light on the relevance of collective memory, national identities, and vested interests – particularly regarding disputed territories – for unfavorable intergroup dynamics and confrontational politics and seek methods for rapprochement and reconciliation.
Based on secondary literature, key-notes by accomplished experts and practitioners from the respective fields and primary sources taken from education, media and politics the summer school puts a special emphasis on peace activism, peace-educational material and peace-oriented trans-border, respectively trans-ethnic activism in an attempt to define best practices of reconciliation. Each day will be composed of theoretical expert input and interactive workshops guided by related research questions and concluded by a comparative discussion of the results.
Time Schedule: Each day starts at 10 am and ends at 6 pm, including lunch times and selected cultural activities.