Kan ett inbördeskrig försonas i ett historieklassrum? Teori och praktik


  • Sirkka Ahonen University of Helsinki




Pursuing Post-Conflict Reconciliation in a History Classroom. Theoretical and Practical Considerations

In a post-conflict society, history education may prolong the conflict on a symbolical level by fostering biased narratives of guilt and victimhood. To avoid this it is necessary to open and maintain a reconciling dialogue in history classrooms. The theory of deliberative communication, launched by Jürgen Habermas, has been applied to pedagogy by Tomas Englund. Deliberative pedagogical discourse implies an equal distribution of power in classroom interaction. Predetermined standpoints are avoided and majority decisions not pursued. Participants are expected to listen to each other instead of rushing to express their individual opinion. Deliberative discussion is founded on the ethos of social inclusion. Three concrete cases illustrate the chances of dialogical history education in post-conflict societies: Finland after the civil war of 1918, South Africa after the end of apartheid, and Bosnia-Hercegovina after the war of 1992–1995. South Africa provides the only example of a prompt post-conflict introduction of dialogical history education. The Afrikaner narrative of heroism and victimhood was after 1994 reserved a place in the new post-colonial history curriculum at the side of the narratives of apartheid and the Black resistance. The viability of dialogical history education has been monitored by attitude surveys. South African surveys reveal that dialogue does not inevitably rule out an identification with the traditional identity narratives. In Bosnia-Herzegovina only little has been achieved in introducing a dialogue in history education but there are signs of students, parents and teachers aspiring to inclusive lessons. The reconciliatory potential imbedded in the multiperspectival nature of the historical knowledge is available in history education.