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Fostering Pluralistic Memories and Collective Resilience in Fragile Transitional Justice Processes

In the aftermath of protracted civil conflicts, as in Sri Lanka’s case, truth and reconciliation processes have come to be accepted as the normal process forward to foster public rituals of truth telling. There is growing academic evidence internationally that post-conflict truth and reconciliation processes and the sharing of collective memories has had significant value in bringing about reconciliation between communities, strengthening democracy in the civic sphere, consolidating a lasting peace between peoples and providing a space for healing after the trauma of conflict.

The ‘Pluralistic Memories’ Project, presently hosted at ICES, is a broad spectrum academic research that hopes to elicit the views, opinions and memories from all Sri Lankan ethnic communities, spanning the recent decades of conflict and the post-conflict period. It is being simultaneously piloted in three societies of complex environments following several decades of conflict, i.e. Burundi, Israeli-Palestine and Sri Lanka. It is recognized that none of these societies provide ideal conditions for the working out of classic truth and reconciliation processes. Therefore, the research and intervention programme of the Project is geared to create a space for pluralistic discussions of the memories of war as well as to provide a safe space for those who share these memories. It is envisaged that these interventions will facilitate spill-over effects that will lead to community healing through the sharing of memories and the first steps to encouraging positive critical social change.

The ‘Pluralistic Memories’ Project uses a mixed-methods research design that includes ethnographic methods of observation and purposive sampling as well as a representative longitudinal survey. Research data collected will be assessed and disseminated for feedback through local community interventions and media dialogues. The Project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, under the auspices of the Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development, and is coordinated by a research group based at University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Lead Researcher: Dr. Guy Elcheroth, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Psychology, University of Lausanne
National Research Coordinator: Dr. Ramila Usoof-Thowfeek, Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy and Psychology, University of Peradeniya

Doctoral Researchers: Esther Surenthiraraj and Sumedha Jayakody
Project Duration: April 2014 – March 2020

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