ISBN: 978-0-472-07465-5

Inger Skjelsbæk

University of Oslo & PRIO

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This rich edited volume addresses themes often overlooked in the scholarly literature on post-conflict reconstruction. The core issue across the different chapters is how to understand survival after mass violence, with three subthemes: imagination, empathy and resilience. The various chapters take us to post-conflict life in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sierra Leone, Colombia, and more. Ethnographic and cultural studies of a festival, dance, and perceptions of the future, yield insights into bottom-up approaches to coping mechanisms and the art of survival. The section on empathy describes how former perpetrators and victims can find a way to co-exist (‘re-humanization’), as a first step towards reconciliation and as a minimum form of resilience to new conflicts. Regarding transitional justice, the authors discuss testimonies about rescue, i.e. by people who refused to take part in acts of violence – a topic often overlooked in the transitional justice literature, which focuses on the perpetrators and victims of violent acts. What it takes for those who resist, and oppose the violence perpetrated by members of their own ethnic/political group, is clearly a theme which deserves more attention. Finally, the focus on resilience provides stories about gendered memories and memory work more broadly and shows how the constructions of the past have a transformative potential for the future by addressing structural injustices which contributed to the escalation of conflict and mass violence. The various studies are characterized by insightful theory and rigorous methodology. The writing is easily accessible and academic jargon is kept to a minimum. The volume should be of great interest for academics, practitioners, and policy makers alike.