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Historical Dialogues, Collective Memory Work, and the (Dis)continuation of Conflicts

Sara Dybris McQuaid, Henrik Sonne Petersen, Johnston Price


This article is at once about historical dialogues and itself a dialogue: In an effort to discuss historical dialogues in the intersection between the academic field of memory studies and the practical field of peace-building, the article offers a semi-structured conversation between an academic and two practitioners. It is on the one hand an exploratory dialogue aimed at identifying and observing potential entry points for analysis and practice in conflict transformations, whilst on the other a discussion of how historical dialogues themselves are framed as open and exploratory or principled and tied to preconditions. The first conversation is between an academic and a practitioner engaged directly in historical dialogues through a storytelling project in Northern Ireland. They bring together theoretical, practical, and methodological considerations of moving between levels of memory as well as understanding historical dialogues at once as processes and products. The second conversation is with a practitioner who works with peacebuilding and dialogue, but not yet from an explicit entry point of historical dialogue. This conversation explores the role of religion and religious
practice as powerful institutions and instruments in bridging individual and collective memory, as well as challenging community cohesion. As such, the article deals with historical dialogues that bring the past into the present, i.e. storytelling projects (the first conversation), or upon which memory work may be brought to bear, i.e. reading preventive dialogues also as historical dialogues (second conversation). The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of how memory work can become part of peacebuilding practices.


conflict; East Africa; memory; Northern Ireland; peace-building; prevention; reconciliation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2020.03337