Memory, Trust and Fear in Post-Conflict Societies

in Southeastern Europe
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The paper deals with the importance of common knowledge based on shared memory for the character of social cooperation. The findings are based on the background of Serbian experience with dealing with the past. The stabilization of a common stock of knowledge is valuable for establishing sustainable patterns of cooperation. The nexus between shared knowledge and different modalities of action is elaborated. Fearful and trustful actions are taken as basic modalities. Both are concerned with uncertainty over time and coping with the freedom of others as independent agents, but they evoke different expectations concerning the prospects of possible cooperation. The common assumptions of mutual expectations are crucial for the choice of cooperative strategy. Trustful cooperation is based on relying on others, while fearful action is based on an apprehension of threat. A “history of play” informs parties on mutual expectations. The irreducibility of shared memories shows that institutional incentives and signals are not able to stabilize shared knowledge on mutual expectations. The paper suggests that different conceptualizations are linked to different modalities of action and that rebuilding damaged relations requires shared reconstruction of a history of mutual relations. The thesis relies on a substantive argument about the particularity of common knowledge and a general argument based on the formal structure of social cooperation.

Memory, Trust and Fear in Post-Conflict Societies

in Southeastern Europe

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References

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Melissa Williams (1998) has argued that historical discrimination continues to exist in collective memory and that its working is corruptive of social and political ties. The bonds of trust between majorities and historically discriminated minorities can be repaired by ensuring group representation in institutions thus ensuring that they have a robust stake in the decision-making process.

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