Thursday, September 28th, 2023

Posted in Announcements

Image is of gallery space with one person in frame with script of "The Troubles and Beyond"

Georgetown University’s Global Irish Studies Initiative, in association with the Department of Government and the MA in Conflict Resolution, presented:

Troubles and Beyond: The Impact of a Museum Exhibit in a Post-Conflict Society

Prof. Laia Balcells

Thursday, September 28th. This event was free and open to the public, but registration was required.

image is of a large seminar room with white walls. the front of the room has a drop down screen presenting the speaker's powerpoint. There is a large audience in front of screen of about 50 people. Laia Balcells stands in the front in an orange sweater and black trousers.

Transitional justice policies, aimed at promoting human rights, and recognizing harms suffered, are commonly implemented in post-violence contexts. One such policy is the establishment of transitional justice museums, which many hope will legitimize nascent legal and political systems and foster reconciliation. Remembering the past could however have painful and polarizing consequences, exacerbating divisions in recovering societies. In deeply divided societies, can museums contribute to processes of healing and recovering, or might they be ineffective or inadvertently polarizing? To explore the impact of engaging with transitional justice museums in post-conflict Northern Ireland, we combine evidence from focus groups and a field experiment conducted at the Troubles and Beyond exhibit in the Ulster Museum with a survey that randomly exposed respondents to materials from the museum exhibit. Our findings indicate that although individuals experience a strong emotional response when engaging with the components of the museum, these emotions do not correspond to significant changes in their perceptions of past violence or their preferences for addressing it in the present. The deliberate neutral curation of the museum exhibit may be responsible for these results. By choosing not to impose a strong narrative, the museum effectively avoids exacerbating polarization but simultaneously forgoes the chance to actively promote a message of national unity.

Image is professional headshot of Dr. Laia Balcells.

Dr. Laia Balcells is a Professor of Government at Georgetown University. Her research explores the determinants of political violence and civil wars, warfare dynamics during conflict, and nationalism and ethnic conflict. Her first book, entitled Rivalry and Revenge: the Politics of Violence during Civil War was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017. Her research has been supported by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and the Folke Bernadotte Academy, among others. She is currently working on a second book about memory politics and transitional justice in post-conflict societies.

This event was free and open to the public. If you wish to make a donation to support the Global Irish Studies series of free lectures and seminars, it will be gratefully received. Please go to our Giving page to make a tax-free donation or click on the button below: