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Questions of remembrance seem to divide many societies, while memory wars are a feature of most contemporary conflicts. As a recent landmark report on Memory Management in Central and Eastern Europe noted, “memory has penetrated right to the core of the political problems of our time, and the problems of politics of our time” [David Gaunt and Tora Lane, 2021]. How we manage remembrance and memory wars is hence a determining factor in whether cycles of violence and trauma repeat, or whether we can overcome such cycles in the hope of peace.

In this interactive discussion moderated by Dr Christine Cheng, Professor Hans Gutbrod and Professor David Wood will argue that an "Ethics of Political Commemoration" can help to at least order many of the debates on remembrance and may even provide a starting point to counter the political misuse of memory that perpetuates conflict.

Based on the just war tradition, such a multi-dimensional paradigm can ensure that multiple considerations are covered. The framework provides a richer description of how commemoration can succeed – and where it fails – in ongoing conflicts, yet also in museums, with statues and street signs, in-laws and justice mechanisms, and really in most authoritative appeals to the past.

Having recently written a book on the issue, Gutbrod and Wood bring extensive on-the-ground experience from their work in the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, to illuminate these questions with practical examples.

This new ethical perspective seeks to complement the dominant genealogical and encyclopedic (or descriptive) approaches to questions of memory, by bringing together ethical reasoning and best practices from the field of conflict transformation. While grounded in theory, the Ethics of Political Commemoration can also contribute practical guidance for citizens, scholars, and decision-makers.

Speakers Bios

  • Hans Gutbrod is Professor at Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia. He has worked in the Caucasus since 1999, was the Regional Director of the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (2006 to 2012), and regularly supports think tank research around the world.
  • David Wood is Professor of Practice at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University, and Senior Researcher at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding. He has 20 years’ experience of promoting conflict transformation in violent settings, establishing the peacebuilding organisation Peaceful Change initiative (2011), and the MENA program at the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (2018).

At this event

Dr Christine Cheng

Senior Lecturer in International Relations

Event details

Bush House
Strand campus, 30 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BG