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Breaking the Silence: Aftermaths, Memory, Silence, and Reconciliation


"Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering--remembering and not using your right to hit back. Its a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you dont want to repeat what happened." -Desmond Tutu on reconciliation

The effects of conflict or genocide on a nation are as varied as the methods
of violence that people can use against one another. Each atrocity or long-termed period of armed conflict brings new forms of suffering and memory to those forced to live through it. The ongoing process of culture and the lived histories of the victims are disrupted by these often long-term psychological, physical, and structural consequences.

Within the past century, our societies have made conscious efforts to help those suffering in the aftermaths of conflict and attempted to restore their culture and social well-being. International organizations today strive to "redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse. (ICTJ)" The purpose of this site is to analyze and interpret memory, suffering, and silence with a cultural lens as well as study our attempts to fill the gaps left behind by conflict.

Site created by: Brianna Brandon, Rashad M. Davis, Emmanuelle Delnord,
Oliver Gard-Murray, Sara Hanneman, Mae Humiston, Dan Kass, Yulia Korovikov,
Kieran Lewis, Kayla Murphy, Hillary Sieber, Angel Thompson, and Madeline Sharon.

Click below for further information on each topic:



Transitional Justice

Multimedia Resources

Discussion Questions

1. Finnestrom advocates a combination of "culturally informed practices of reconciliation," "international retributive justice," and "political efforts at peacemaking." Is this realistic?

Restorative Justice
1. "Discourses on reconciliation alone are not capable of bringing peace to social settings suffering from long-term armed conflicts or extreme political oppression." Finnestrom on Uganda (pg 232) Is this true of other conflicts that we have studied? Why or why not?
2. Elders in Rwanda have seen the repetition of history - would an institutional form of restorative justice be able to break this cycle of ethnic violence?

1. In what way, if any, do these Pentecostal videos function as a type of memorial?
2. Memorials are built as a way to remember the past. Does Sierra Leone gain anything by not directly remembering and representing the past but rather thinking towards the future and reconciling their current situation?

1. "How do memorials in the U.S. function differently or similarly to those in other parts of the world?"


40 Years of Silence: An Indonesian Tragedy. Dir. Robert Lemelson. Elemental Productions, 2009. Documentary.

Farmer, Paul. On Suffering and Structural Violence: A View from Below. Daedalus 125.1, Social Suffering (1996).

Finnstrom, Sverker. (2008). Living With Bad Surroundings. Durham: Duke University Press.

Green, Linda. Living in a State of Fear. Violence in War and Peace. Oxford: Blackwell (2004).

Kaldor, Mary. Old Wars, Cold Wars, New Wars, and the War on Terror. London School of Economics. Lecture.

Nordstrom, Carolyn. (1998). Terror Warfare and the Medicine of Peace. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 12(1): 103-121.

Shaw, Rosalind. (2005). Rethinking Truth and Reconciliation Commissions: Lessons from Sierra Leone. United States Institute of Peace: Special Report.

Shaw, Rosalind. (2007). DISPLACING VIOLENCE: Making Pentecostal Memory in Postwar Sierra Leone.

Dwyer, Leslie. (2010) Building a Monument: Intimate Politics of 'Reconciliation' in Post-1965 Bali.

Dwyer, Leslie. (2009)"A Politics of Silence". Genocide: Truth, Memory, and Representation. Durham: Duke University Press.

Greater Boston Anthropology Consortium

Combat Paper

Odysseus Project

International Center for Transitional Justice

ICTJ- Case Study on Truth Commissions in Guatemala and South Africa

United Nations Rule of Law

Definition of Transitional Justice from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

United States Institute of Peace

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