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In societies affected by armed conflict, dealing with the past can prevent violence and promote justice. However collective memory is often monopolised by political elites and mirrors societal inequalities. In response, citizens devise bottom-up practices to bypass and oppose hegemonic narratives. Through informal archives and oral narratives, the project explores practices that challenge hegemonic discourses of conflict by creating spaces for dialogue and advancing demands for justice and accountability.

In societies affected by conflict, learning from the past can prevent violence, promote justice and contribute to sustainable peace. However for these societies collective memory is often fragmented and mirrors societal inequalities. In countries such as Lebanon and Syria, State institutions have enforced amnesia over the past and dictated who is allowed to speak. The heritage of the conflict remains therefore unresolved and can fuel new outbursts of violence and instability.

Citizens therefore strive to bypass and oppose state-enforced silence to devise bottom-up practices that deal with heritage as a way to heal trauma, demand justice, increase social cohesion and build sustainable peace. In Lebanon, countering amnesia is seen as a way to delegitimize the sectarian rhetoric that - together with the persistence of cultural violence and martial infrastructures - fuel the sense that the war has not ended. In Syria, forms of narrative production beyond state-sanctioned ones can become mechanisms for transitional justice and help foreground local perceptions overlooked by an overly internationalized process. Emphasis is therefore put on the agency of local actors and local field dynamics.

This project looks at how bottom-up practices are used to deal with heritage as a way to heal trauma, demand justice and build sustainable peace. By exploring informal/personal archives and oral narratives from Lebanon’s Civil War (1975-1990) and Syria’s ongoing conflict (2011 - ) the project explores bottom-up practices that challenge amnesia and hegemonic discourses of conflict by creating spaces for dialogue antagonised by formal institutions.



Research Questions

How can bottom-up approaches to dealing with conflict-produced heritage become sites for the construction of inclusive narratives?

How can the work of dealing with a contested past aid sustainable peace and promote justice in the present?

What are the impacts of more inclusive ways of dealing with the past on civic participation? - Can they lead to the creation of alternative democratic spaces?



  • to provide an understanding of how bottom-up approaches to memorialization can be inclusive, address citizens’ lack of agency and contribute to sustainable peace in contexts marked by obstruction from formal institutions;

  • to illuminate the efficacy of personal archives in challenging amnesia or hegemonic narratives of conflict and advancing demands for justice.

  • to retrieve the sensory, aesthetic dimension of the heritage produced by conflict and evaluate and probe its descriptive and explicative mechanisms;

  • to provide evidence on the link between the ways in which heritage of conflict is dealt with and the emergence of new violence;

  • to understand whether unconventional practices and methods can be transferred from one context to another and integrated into policy;


Proposed Outputs

  • Documentary Film

  • Teaching Material

  • Online archive

  • Two journal articles

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