Acknowledgment, denial and collective memories of mass atrocities: comparative perspectives

Recent decades have witnessed systematic efforts to build institutions in response to mass atrocities, a “justice cascade”, and an unprecedented wave of apologies by heads of state. Simultaneously, denial is rampant, at times strategically planned in response to acknowledgment, and supported by a calculated reluctance to intervene. The proposed project explores comparatively struggles between acknowledgment and denial, and these struggles’ impact on collective representations and memories. Special attention is paid to institutional contexts in which struggles are carried out. Exploring these themes for the Armenian genocide, I have collected law texts, legislative records, interviews with participants, media reports, and documentary films. The fellowship provides an opportunity to (1) write up findings and (2) explore other cases for comparative analysis, both components of a book project. Rooted in sociology, the project relates to work by anthropologists and humanities colleagues, as it deals with narratives; historians, as it addresses the shaping of historical accounts; political scientists, as it examines political processes; and lawyers, as it engages legal texts and contexts. Communication with international colleagues, especially from Africa and South Africa with its history of Apartheid and the TRC, and neighboring Namibia with its history of genocide will greatly benefit the project.

Project leader(s):
  • Joachim Savelsberg (Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota)

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