The aim of this thesis has been to conduct research on what culture can tell us about the characteristics of apologies and reconciliation. The main observation of this thesis has been that when post-conflict reconciliation stagnates, the role of culture, or more precisely the negligence of culturally-sensitive approaches in this particular process, appears to be of key importance to the outcome. By relating these concepts with one another, recommendations are presented for a fuller notion of culture-sensitive peacebuilding approaches in post-conflict societies. The research’s methodology consists of a thorough analysis of primary sources and literature, approached from a historical angle by looking into the historical background and its implications on contemporary issues. Subsequently, a comparative aspect has been implemented by looking into post World War II and post-Cold War reconciliatory processes. All these aspects have been examined in a detailed fashion consisting of two case studies; Bosnia - on the post-civil war Bosnian reconciliation process, and the Vertriebenen - about the process of reconciliation since the expulsion of ethnic Germans in the immediate post-World War II period. Three questions have been important in this research: First, how the concepts of culture, reconciliation and apology relate to one another in post-conflict societies. Second, to what extent reconciliatory processes in the post World War II differs from that in the post-Cold War era. Third, to what degree apologies differ between domestic Western policies compared to policies concerning apologies of the Western-dominated international community. This thesis finally offers four guidelines, which presents a framework for a fuller notion of cultural-sensitive reconciliation efforts. First, it is important for the international community to take culture-sensitive policies serious and not leave ‘culture’ to be rarely moved beyond the level of rhetoric. Second, the need to look at different peacebuilding approaches and how they can compliment each other, instead of having a polarizing effect on the post-conflict society. Third, underlining the importance of a genuine and patiently perceived internal process which can achieve social cohesion and to encourage dialogue. Forth, the need of giving priority to educating both the conflicting groups and the international actors in a post-conflict reconciliation process, in which education creates a broader scope of the own perceived historical narrative, and the international actors involved will be better informed about the culture and history of the host-society.

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D. Douwes, C.R. Ribbens
Maatschappijgeschiedenis / History of Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

J.P. van Essen. (2014, September 19). Recognizing Reconciliation. Maatschappijgeschiedenis / History of Society. Retrieved from