Art and Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community

Mina Jahić from the Rescuers Project PCRC, Credit - Dr Paul Lowe
Mina Jahić from the Rescuers Project PCRC, Credit - Dr Paul Lowe

Principal Investigator:Dr Rachel Kerr

Co-investigators: Professor James Gow, Dr Denisa Kostovicova, Dr Paul Lowe

Artist-in-residence: Dr Milena Michalski

Research Institutions:King’s College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, and University of the Arts London

Project Summary

Although billions of pounds internationally have been invested in post-conflict reconciliation projects involving aspects of justice and the creative arts, there has been no study of this phenomenon as such. To date, only isolated studies of particular places and projects have been undertaken - a lack noted by UNDP (Western Balkans), one of the largest funders of such work, which seeks a 'codified body of knowledge pertaining to reconciliation.' This interdisciplinary project will innovatively investigate post-conflict reconciliation to address this major gap. It will do so by combining history, conflict resolution methodologies, art and creative practice, and both qualitative and quantitative social sciences in three strands:

  1. An historical investigation of the concept and practice of reconciliation through time and in different geographical regions. 
  2. Interrogation of both the past use of art and related media in reconciliation initiatives and the potential of artistic practices and artefacts to play a role in inter-communal conflict resolution, remembrance, forgetting and forgiving. This will include critical evaluation of data generated by a series of initiatives using visual media to stimulate inter-ethnic dialogue and reconciliation, particularly with youth groups, run by the Post Conflict Research Centre (PCRC) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
  3. Comparative empirical research ‘mapping’ reconciliation activities across countries and over time and analyzing discourses of reconciliation, applying computer-assisted quantitative and qualitative text analysis. This will include a dedicated analysis of RECOM, a unique, locally-driven NGO initiative for reconciliation involving over 5,000 civil society members from all countries and ethnic groups in the Balkans. The initiative generated a large volume of multi-language text data whose analysis can inform understanding of reconciliation.

The three strands will be integrated in project workshops and exhibitions, co-authored academic outputs, and policy documents, including the production of a framework document for critical evaluation of reconciliation activity.

The project is a major collaborative effort involving an inter-disciplinary team of investigators (Dr Rachel Kerr and Professor James Gow of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, Dr Denisa Kostovicova of the Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Dr Paul Lowe of London College of Communication, University of the Arts London) and non-academic collaborators in its design, production and delivery, commissioning artists in a variety of media to create and develop practices and artifacts.

Impact

This research will be of benefit to three broad constituencies of interest, both academic and practitioner, in both public and private spheres.

  • Academic: the research will be of vital interest to all engaged in research on the history of ideas and practices relating to war and peace, as well as the history of conflict and peace processes and transitional justice; it will also be of great interest to those interested in fine art and memorialisation, both as practice and as application in social contexts.
  • Practitioner: the research will be of vital interest to practitioners engaged in post-conflict resolution and reconciliation initiatives seeking a 'codified body of knowledge pertaining to reconciliation' and an understanding of how critically to evaluate the variety of activities, including, notably, visual arts, funded under the umbrella of reconciliation in the Western Balkans. 
  • Civic sector and communities: The research will benefit NGOs/the third sector working on reconciliation. It will provide them tools for assessing the effect and outreach of their activities, both in relation to funders and communities. Under the umbrella of the project, dialogue will be facilitated between communities and policy-makers to better inform policy-approaches to reconciliation.
  • In particular, parts of the research design have been developed with two NGO initiatives in the Western Balkans (The Post-Conflict Research Centre, Sarajevo, and the Humanitarian Law Center, Belgrade). Both organizations will work with the project, benefiting from the methodological innovation and critical evaluation of the material generated by the project, and facilitating pathways to impact.

Related Links

War crimes research blog

Abstract and overview

An interview with Dr Denisa Kostovicova discussing the interdisciplinary research project