The legacy of violent conflict is at the forefront of contemporary politicsinmany divided societies where struggles over the past contribute to the regular renewal of tension. On its twentieth anniversary the Divided Societies course examines the memory wars that have become an increasingly important focus of contentionin recent decades. It pays particular attention to the Balkans, Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine, three regions where conflict seemed to have been resolved by peace settlements in the early 1990s but where the past continues to contribute to crises in the present. Struggles over the past were somewhat neglected by the founders of the social sciences, concerned as they were to understand the rupturewith the past in the modern era. But the growing reflexivity of the modern age was manifested in part in a search for historical foundations,and the proliferation of commemorative rituals. Since the 1980s there has been a rapid growth in academic analysis ofthe uses of the past and social memory. The growth of new technologies for information storage and retrieval has given added urgency and importance to the question.If modernity broughtintensified reflection on the past, the information age is accompanied by a merging of past and present that helps to prolong the afterlife of conflicts. New technologies provide easy access to primary historical sources, facilitate the proliferation of commemorative discourses and help to keep the past constantly to the fore in contemporary debate. The effect is reinforced by new forensic technologies that allow prosecutions for decades-old actions and make it much more difficult to consign previous conflicts to a separate realm called ‘the past’.
The course examines memory as a resource for political mobilization and as a source of power and legitimation. It analyses commemoration as a site for the temporal and spatial concentration of struggles over the past and discusses legal approaches to dealing with the past including prosecutions, truth commissions and amnesties. It looks too at alternative historical mechanisms to dealing with the past, including collaborative histories and education for mutual understanding.
We encourage the participation of students and scholars in the social sciences, law and humanities and other fields and disciplines studying social phenomena such as divisions, cleavages, conflicts, borders, ethnicity and diversity.
The course provides a rigorous interdisciplinary academic programme structured around lectures, workshops and conference-oriented presentations of scholarly research. Course participants will engage in active discussions on the theoretical, methodological and practical issues of research in divided societies. Graduate and postgraduate students’ presentations are also welcome. In addition, the course offers a personal inter-cultural experience of students and faculty from other contexts in the unforgettable setting of a city that was itself the target of a destructive conflict.
The course offers ECTS credits for PhD and MA students (3-5 ECTS).