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Art & Reconciliation: an innovative approach to conflict resolution

Posted on 13/12/2016
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Mina Jahić from the Rescuers Project, PCRC (© Dr Paul Lowe)

‘Art and Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community’ is an innovative collaboration between  King’s College London, the London School of Economics and the University of the Arts in London that aims to improve our understanding of a major current and future global security challenge.

Although billions of pounds have been invested in post-conflict reconciliation projects involving aspects of justice and the creative arts, there has been no study of this phenomenon as such. ‘Art and Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community addresses this major gap, opening up knowledge exchange between government, academia and the third sector.  Impacting beyond the academic community, this unique collaboration brings together academics, artists and NGOs to create and develop artistic practices and artefacts through a variety of media.

This inter-disciplinary project combines history, conflict resolution methodologies, art and creative practice, and both qualitative and quantitative social sciences.  The expert team of investigators  include Dr Rachel Kerr and Professor James Gow of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, Dr Denisa Kostovicova of the Department of Government, London School of Economics, and Dr Paul Lowe of the London College of Communication, University of the Arts in London. In addition, the project has its own Artist-in-residence, Dr Milena Michalski, and will work closely with NGO project partners in the Western Balkans to shape its design, production and delivery.

In an interview, Dr Rachel Kerr talks more about the project:

Why is the Department of War Studies engaging in an arts project?

As an inter-disciplinary department, War Studies is ideally placed to engage with other disciplines. War Studies recently launched an Arts & Conflict Hub  to support research and teaching on arts and artistic representations of war.  The hub's first exhibition, ‘Traces of War’, curated by Vivienne Jabri and Cécile Bourne-Farrell speaks directly to some of the themes we aim to explore in this project, namely, the impact of war in the ‘everyday’ and the potential of arts and artistic practices to generate different forms of engagement and types of responses to the legacy of conflict, in particular where there have been widespread atrocities.  We are also fortunate to have at King’s College London a dedicated Cultural Institute, and a long history of partnerships and collaboration across disciplinary boundaries, with academic and non-academic partners.

What makes this project unique?

This project is unique in bringing together a broad range of approaches to the problem of reconciliation, which remains one of the most elusive and contested concepts in the fields of post-conflict reconstruction, peace-building and transitional justice.  We will be developing innovative methodologies to guide and evaluate the use of arts and artistic practices to generate conversations around reconciliation, particularly among young people.

Which area of the world have you chosen to focus your research on?

Our particular focus is on the Western Balkans, where little is known about the impact of reconciliation activity and programmes and for many, reconciliation, in all its guises, still seems a long way off over twenty years after the end of the war in Bosnia. We will also commission comparative historical and contemporary case studies elsewhere in Europe as well as in Africa, Asia, North and South America.

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The research is funded through the Large Grant scheme of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the Conflict Theme of the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research (PaCCS) and through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

For more information, contact: Rachel.kerr@kcl.ac.uk @rachelclarekerr

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