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Healing the Wounds



Viroli M.



The Mediterranean world has been in the XXth century the theatre of many cases of collective tragedies: civil wars, ethnic cleansing, religious violence, dictatorships, and massive violations of human rights. These experiences have in common exceptional viciousness and have been and are cause of exceptional pain. The perpetrators of these crimes deliberately intend to offend, terrorize and degrade their victims. Their violence is directed to other human beings selected not because they, as individuals, have done something, but simply because they belong to a particular ethnic or religious group. The victims, for the victimizers, deserve to be punished for an alleged collective guilt. There no limits to the amount of suffering that the members of the group can be subject to. The sufferance that peoples or groups have endured are lived and remembered with particular bitterness. They call for revenge and open a cycle of hatred. They also cause enduring wounds in the collective memories of peoples. They are, in different ways, affecting the sense of personal dignity of many women and men, and they make it difficult the creation and preservation of decent political and social communities.The research project has a scientific and a practical goal. The first is to study the collective memories of tragedies in different Mediterranean countries; the second to identify, by comparing the different experiences, the legal, political and ethical means that are most apt to heal the wounds. For this reason the project is designed to be relevant for the international intellectual community, for political institutions and for nongovernmental organizations. Switzerland is, for obvious reasons, the most appropriate place to promote it. The project could be divided, following Nancy L. Rosenblum suggestion (in Martha Minow, ed., Breaking the cycles of hatred, 2002) into three sections: memory, law and repair. The first deals with the features of collective memories, their tensions and ambiguities, in countries that have suffered tragic experiences; the second with the legal means that have been put in practice to respond to tragedies, like international and domestic courts, instituted to try perpetrators and instigators of mass violence; the third with the attempts to repair the effects of tragedies, like truth and reconciliation commissions, apologies, public memorials and voluntary work.

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Start date
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12 Months