Theoretical Articles

The Long Road From Cold War to Warm Peace: Building Shared Collective Memory Through Trust

Mariska Kappmeier*a, Aurélie Mercyb


Conflict does not end when violence ceases. Societies faced with overcoming conflict are confronted with many obstacles in the long process of reconciliation as they move from cold war to warm peace. They have to bridge the divide of disparate collective memory while overcoming deep-rooted inter-group distrust. Disparate collective memories fuel the conflict by preserving hatred and distrust. We suggest that one step towards warm peace is the establishment of an overarching superordinate group memory, or Shared Collective Memory. Our paper introduces a theoretical reconciliation model that proposes three incremental reconciliation cycles to build a Shared Collective Memory through the parallel development of intergroup trust. It combines and expands on the existing conceptualizations of trust and of collective memory and provides a framework for future empirical research.

Keywords: Collective memory, Shared Collective Memory, intergroup trust, intergroup relations, peace building

Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2019, Vol. 7(1),

Received: 2014-02-07. Accepted: 2018-04-10. Published (VoR): 2019-06-28.

Handling Editor: Johanna Ray Vollhardt, Clark University, Worcester, MA, USA

*Corresponding author at: National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago, PO Box 56, 9054 Dunedin, New Zealand. E-mail:

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Peace Is a Process, not an Event [TOP]

Even when the use of direct violence in group conflicts has ceased and a stage of equilibrium has been reached, this does not mean that peace has been achieved. Tensions still remain and there is a perpetual risk of returning to hot war and violence until further actions are taken. How can groups move beyond their tension towards stable and cooperative relations, making possible an engagement in reconciliation? Miller (2001) identified three transitional periods, which could mark a process towards reconciliation: a period of cold war, cold peace, and warm peace. According to Miller, cold war is a period in which open violent hostility no longer occurs, but which could recur at any time. Groups’ relationships are still fragile and characterized by cautious approaches. Cold peace is marked by a more stable, but also pragmatic relationship of conflict resolution. Groups aim at non-violent settling of their differences, while the threat of a return to cold war still exists. Warm peace is marked by a stable relationship, when the conflict as a dividing event has faded more and more. The groups do not perceive each other as a threat, and nor do they see violence as likely to occur in the foreseeable future.

However, while the proposed periods describe a reconciliation process, they do not address what reconciliation entails or the challenges it may encounter. Lederach (1997) suggests that the central challenge of reconciliation is that it must not only find ways to address the past, but also allow for the envisioning of a long-term, interdependent future. Staub (2006) defines reconciliation as the “mutual acceptance of each other. […]. Members of hostile groups do not see the past as defining the future, but the humanity of one another and the possibility of a constructive relationship” (p. 868). Both Lederach and Staub suggest that to reach reconciliation, groups have to address and acknowledge the victimization and the atrocities committed in the past, while, at the same time, an outlook towards an interdependent future together must be provided (Lederach, 1997).

Lederach (1997) describes this engagement with the past, while envisioning the future, as the three paradoxes of reconciliation: First, groups need to be able to address their shared experiences with each other and the hurtful past, with the goal of creating new, positive experiences and relations. Second, groups need to move past the atrocities committed towards one's own group in order to build renewed relations. Third, groups need to acknowledge and devote time and effort to processing the past hurt, while still being able to envision a common future. To do so in a deep and meaningful way, we propose that groups need to build incremental trust through a reciprocal process. In order to address the past and to envision a shared future together, groups need to develop relationship-genuine trust, as peace without trust is almost impossible (Alon & Bar-Tal, 2016; Kelman, 2005).

No Peace Without Trust [TOP]

Albert Einstein is awarded this famous citation, an insight widely acknowledged among social scientists (e.g. Alon & Bar-Tal, 2016; McKeown & Psaltis, 2017; Nadler & Liviatan, 2006).

Trust can be defined as “a group’s willingness to become vulnerable to the behavior and actions of an outgroup, where the outgroup’s actions are outside of one’s control and the outgroup is perceived to be of questionable character” (Kappmeier, 2016, p. 135). Thus, trust and distrust are based on the expectations of the outgroup. While trust is based on positive expectations regarding the other group’s traits, intentions and behavior, distrust is based on negative expectations regarding the other’s intentions, character and potential actions (Bar-Tal & Alon, 2016; Lewicki, 2006). These expectations determine how much risk a group is willing to take: If trust and positive expectations prevail, groups are more likely to make themselves vulnerable (Dovidio, Gaertner, Kawakami, & Hodson, 2002). In contrast, distrustful relations, with predominantly negative expectations, mean they are less likely to take such risks (Bar-Tal & Alon, 2016; Lewicki, 2006; Luhmann, 2000). Given the hostile and often violent past in intergroup conflict, negative expectations regarding the intentions and behaviors of the other are not only predominant but also partly warranted (Kelman, 2005). Blind trust in a former enemy can be quite costly, if this trust is not honored. However, without some degree of trust, it is challenging for groups to engage in any kind of reconciliation. Because of its reciprocal nature, trust requires a series of encounters, through which a group can learn that their trust in the outgroup will not be exploited (Cakal & Petrović, 2017). Thus, trust is not only a predictor for improved intergroup relations, but also an outcome (Hewstone, Cairns, Voci, Hamberger, & Niens, 2006).

Indeed, trust is inextricably linked to conflict resolution and its related processes (e.g., Andrighetto, Halabi, & Nadler, 2018; Noor, Shnabel, Halabi, & Doosje, 2015; Psaltis, Franc, Smeekes, Ioannou, & Žeželj, 2017).

Past research has documented that trust is associated with groups’ ability and willingness to forgive (Cehajic, Brown, & Castano, 2008). Trust is not only associated with the action of the ingroup, such as forgiveness, but also how the action of the outgroup is perceived. For example, Alarcón-Henríquez et al. (2010) have shown that acknowledging past suffering of the outgroup results in a stronger improvement in intergroup relations for high-trusting group members than for low-trusting group members. Furthermore, trust is associated with the willingness to be vulnerable to an increased risk (Hewstone et al., 2008).

Building trust is at the heart of the reconciliation process. With reference to the paradox of reconciliation, trust is essential both to acknowledging the dividing collective memories of the conflict groups and also to creating a vision of a shared future. This process is particularly challenging as the dividing potential of collective memories is also associated with deteriorating trust (Andrighetto et al., 2018; Charis, Mario, & Sabina Čehajić, 2017; Psaltis et al., 2017), which we address further when introducing our trust-based reconciliation model of Shared Collective Memory.

Collective Memory in Conflict [TOP]

When societies are caught in conflict, the histories of these conflicts cannot be gleaned from individual memories as most intergroup conflicts persist for decades or longer. Accordingly, not all generations of a society have their own personal memories of hot war. Rather, members of a society subscribe to a shared social understanding of an intergroup conflict called collective memory (Marques, Paez, & Serra, 1997; Rouhana & Bar-Tal, 1998).

This type of memory differs from individual memory because it is grounded in a history that is communally acknowledged. One of the main characteristics of collective memory is that it is dynamic, as it is continually being rewritten, often with the inherent goal of maintaining a positive group image (Baumeister & Hastings, 1997; Figueiredo, Martinovic, Rees, & Licata, 2018). Rewriting collective memory allows groups to make their own history by emphasizing certain elements and making others obsolete (e.g. Kurtiş, Soylu Yalçınkaya, & Adams, 2018; Nets-Zehngut, Pliskin, & Bar-Tal, 2015; Sibley, Liu, Duckitt, & Khan, 2008). Thus, collective memory is more than a chronological sequence of events. It carries a symbolic weight which serves to transmit the values of the group (Liu & Hilton, 2005).

In times of conflict, collective memories become important as each side builds its own account of the events, meanings and repercussions of the conflict. Indeed, while each society is likely to contend that their collective memory is the “truth” of the history of the conflict, societies often differ in their accounts of the conflict, its precipitating events, and each side’s role (e.g., Kurtiş et al., 2018; Rouhana & Bar-Tal, 1998).

As a result, in addition to other conflict issues, groups also deviate regarding their basic understanding of the history of the conflict. For instance, according to Volkan (2004), groups have shared mental representations of their own “chosen traumas” and “chosen glories”. “Chosen traumas” refer to events in a group’s history in which they have suffered catastrophic loss, humiliation, and helplessness at the hands of an enemy. “Chosen glories” are triumphs against a formidable and deserving adversary. These memories of unjust mistreatment and worthy victories help sustain a group’s own positive self-image, but also fuel the conflict. Indeed, by focusing on ingroup victimization and glorification, a group’s perception of superiority in various domains, especially morality, has been shown to undermine positive intergroup attitudes and increase negative intergroup attitudes (e.g. Leach, Ellemers, & Barreto, 2007; Roccas, Klar, & Liviatan, 2006; Wohl, Branscombe, & Klar, 2006).

Potential of Collective Memory [TOP]

How can this division created by collective memories be addressed? Our paper introduces a reconciliation model to overcome fixation on the past and to move toward a shared future. While many researchers have focused on how the divisions between individual groups’ collective memories fuel conflict (e.g., Kurtiş et al., 2018; Páez & Liu, 2015), we include a focus on the unifying potential of a mutually Shared Collective Memory.

Building a Shared Collective Memory is not about forgetting or neglecting experienced atrocities, but about including them in a shared narrative. This may require groups to acknowledge responsibility for their transgressions and to move past the stage of victimization and blame. A Shared Collective Memory represents the groups’ joint history of suffering through the conflict and their joint desire for a peaceable future. Building a Shared Collective Memory will not create a utopia where groups live without any tension or conflict. When groups (and individuals) live in close proximity to and interdependence with each other there will always be differences leading to different degrees of tensions. However, building trust by working towards a Shared Collective Memory can allow for the development of relationships in which tensions can mutually and cooperatively be addressed without reverting to violence.

However, to change mental representations such as collective memories is a challenging task, especially since it holds the potential to threaten the core of the identities of the former conflict groupsi. Thus, we propose that such a change is not a quick fix but a slow and gradual process. We further suggest that the essential, although not necessarily sufficient, ingredient for this adaptation is trust.

Groups caught in cold war often share a deep communal relationship of distrust. Kelman (2005) points out that “both parties believe – usually with a long history of supporting evidence – that the other is bent on frustrating their needs, on undermining their welfare, and on causing them harm” (p. 640). So when moving towards a Shared Collective Memory, groups also face the challenge of building mutual trust.

We argue that the former is not achievable without the latter. In fact, we propose a theoretical model that addresses the potential of collective memory as a means of reconciliation and introduces a process through which conflict groups can create a Shared Collective Memory through the parallel and inextricably intertwined development of trust. This model is based on a collective memory model developed by Licata et al. (2007) and a trust model proposed by Kelman (2005) and Lewicki and Bunker (1995).

The Trust-Based Reconciliation Model of Shared Collective Memory – A Quick Overview [TOP]

How can groups overcome the barriers created by their collective memories and distrust? We propose that this development occurs in three reconciliation cycles, through which collective memories slowly change from exhibiting their dividing potential towards a Shared Collective Memory, which can bind groups together. However, while each cycle can play out as a virtuous one in which groups are able to engage with each other in a cooperative manner, each cycle can easily turn into a vicious one as well. We reflect and elaborate on associated challenges later in this article.

An important caveat which we make from the outset is that our model proposes an ideal process that we see has the potential to guide interventions. It does not describe a normative process which inevitably unfolds in every post-conflict scenario. In addition, Figure 1 is a simplification, which depicts the model in a linear manner. It serves the sole purpose of introducing the model itself, with the full complexity in which the reconciliation effort of bridging dividing collective memories occurs represented in Figure 2.

Figure 1

Trust-based reconciliation model for Shared Collective Memory – Linear presentation.

In the cycle of cold war, following the cycle of hot war which is not part of our reconciliation model, open violence has ceased. While violence can still occur, groups have reached some form of ceasefire agreement or entered some kind of negotiation, which is often influenced by outside pressure and third-party support (Kelman, 2010; Miller, 2001). Thus, there is a shared but fragile understanding that it serves each other’s self-interest to stop the violence and to engage in conflict settlement (Kelman, 2010). This process can lead to working trust, “a pragmatic trust in the other’s interest in achieving and maintaining peace” (Kelman, 2010, p. 2). In this model, working trust can be seen as a trust sufficient to allow groups to express their own narratives, with the outcome of unchallenged collective memory presented by both groups [Cycle 1 – cold war].

A virtuous cycle of cold war can allow groups to gain more positive knowledge about the outgroup, which can change their pragmatic working trust to a more relationship-centered knowledge-based trust. Knowledge-based trust is based on “confident knowledge about the others, including their motives, abilities and reliability” (Dietz & Den Hartog, 2006, p. 563). We propose that this trust can facilitate the creation of a supportive climate for discussions about the content and legitimacy of the collective memories.

Furthermore, the positive expectations of knowledge-based trust can provide groups with the ability to move from mere exposure to different narratives towards an engagement with each other’s collective memory. This engagement can slowly bind the groups together as one superordinate group with a singular goal of peace [Cycle 2 – cold peace]. A virtuous cycle of cold peace can be marked by stable relations, in which groups know each other well enough to question the outgroup’s recollection of collective memories and push to have their own narrative taken into account.

The successful process of challenging and altering each other’s collective memories can create space for a shared identification with the process itself, which can provide the base for trust to grow into an identification-based trust. Identification-based trust is based on positive expectations and a positive emotional bond between groups (Tomlinson & Lewicki, 2006). This trust can allow groups to start using their challenged and already revised collective memory to build a Shared Collective Memory [Cycle 3 – warm peace].

An important point is that our proposed model is not linear but recursive. This is due to two circumstances. Firstly, while trust is difficult to build, it is very easily destroyed. Even if groups attain knowledge-based trust, outside events, such as a violent attack from a splinter group or other trust violations, can undo previous work and weaken the trust back to working trust.

Secondly, moving from cold war through cold peace to warm peace is a long and rocky road. Thus, each cycle has the potential to play out as a virtuous cycle through which relations can be improved. But if violations appear, trust can easily be destroyed, the collective memories can exhibit their dividing potential, and the cycle can turn into a vicious one.

There are two important propositions for our reconciliation model. First, we propose that it is suitable for groups with a high degree of organization that also formalize and institutionalize their collective memory as ‘charters,’ which often applies to societies (Liu & Hilton, 2005). By lending legitimization to the collective memories, charters hold the potential to establish rules, norms, moral codes and laws within societies. It should be noted that not all members of a group or society agree with the same collective memory; groups have one official collective memory, from which sub-groups can deviate (Fraïssé, 2003). However, although we acknowledge that groups can include sub-groups with deviating narratives, our paper focuses on the official collective memory and how it can be renegotiated between former conflict groups.

Second, it presupposes that the violence is over and that the groups have started the reconciliation process. There is no longer an escalation of violence and the conflict is no longer characterized by open violence; any violent acts which occur are experienced as an interruption of the new, albeit fragile, status quo of cautious approaches between groupsii.

From Conflict Settlement to Reconciliation – A Proposed Pathway [TOP]

Rather than suggesting that our trust-based reconciliation model commonly occurs, we believe it has potential to broaden the imagination on how to strive towards reconciliation while acknowledging the accompanying challenges. We see its capacity to inform and inspire theory-driven and empirical interventions. While Figure 1 presents a simplified illustration of our model, Figure 2 more accurately reflects the complex path of reconciliation as it includes ample opportunities for trust to be destroyed and for groups to regress between the cycles.

Figure 2

Trust-based reconciliation model for Shared Collective Memory – Recursive presentation.

Cycle 1 – Cold War [TOP]

In the cycle of cold war, groups are more likely to regress towards hot war, marked by active violence, than to engage in cold peace (Miller, 2001). This cycle is marked by cautious approaches between groups and highly fragile relations. Interactions are limited to the management of crises, while each group protects their own interests, in order to avoid the leap back into hot war (Kelman, 2010). This cycle is not about resolution yet, but more about avoiding open violence, and focusing on conflict settlement.

Potential Challenges Destabilizing the Cycle of Cold War [TOP]

During the cycle of cold war, the collective memories of each group hold their full divisive potential. The collective memories allow the ingroup to consistently describe the outgroup not only as the enemy but also as an enemy that seeks the total destruction of the ingroup (Páez & Liu, 2015), making the outgroup deserving of any violent action that is directed towards them (Bar-Tal, Chernyak-Hai, Schori, & Gundar, 2009).

The negative portrait of the others serves multiple protective functions for the groups, all of which create challenges for trust: (1) justifying the ingroup’s actions during the conflict, (2) perpetuating a positive view of one’s own society, and (3) de-legitimizing the rival and their explanations for actions taken during the conflict and presenting notable challenges for groups as they move through cold war.

Justifying one’s own moral digression [TOP]

Recollections of past persecution and suffering serve as justifications for revenge and atrocities against the others. The retaliation of the ingroup seems more legitimate and is excused as the only rational response to the past aggression of the others (Páez & Liu, 2015).

This perception of past persecution and grief is linked to the creation of a shared sense of collective victimhood (Bar-Tal et al., 2009). Collective memories are an essential part of collective victimhood; together they can be used for justification of past actions of the one’s own group (Vollhardt, Bilewicz, & Olechowski, 2015). Collective victimhood frames past suffering as a result of the unwarranted aggression of the outgroup (Bar-Tal et al., 2009). It allows a group to put the responsibility of past aggression on the ‘others’, as the sole perpetrator. Research also suggests that collective victimhood increases the perceived threat posed by the others and heightens distrust of them (Vollhardt et al., 2015). This reveals the tremendous challenge that collective victimhood poses to reconciliation, as Bar-Tal and Alon (2016) point out “Nothing is as detrimental to trust as threat and fear” (p. 322).

Perpetuating a positive view of one’s own society [TOP]

Second, collective victimhood helps sustain a group’s own positive self-image, but also fuels the conflict. Emphasizing one’s own suffering and justifying one’s own hostile actions allows a group to maintain a positive moral image (Bilali & Ross, 2012; Noor, Brown, Gonzalez, Manzi, & Lewis, 2008a), which is inevitably linked to a positive self-image. As Leach, Bilali, and Pagliaro (2015) point out: “Little is as important to ingroup identity as morality in general and trustworthiness in particular” (p. 139). Any indication that a group has engaged in moral digression poses a threat to the group’s self-perception, which groups are likely to reject (Branscombe, Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje, 1999).

One coping mechanism is to declare moral superiority over the outgroup, in which the ingroup tends to evaluate itself as more moral and peaceful than the outgroup, perceiving its own actions as based on good values and morals that are superior to those of the outgroup. In addition, the outgroup is also often portrayed as a deliberate threat to these core values and to the morals of the ingroup (Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005; Leach et al., 2015). Trust in the outgroup is based, among other dimensions, on their perceived integrity. Thus, the perception that the others are lacking integrity and not acting in accordance with a moral code undermines any fragile trust between groups (Kappmeier, 2016; Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995).

De-legitimizing the rival and their explanations for actions [TOP]

Engaging in collective victimhood and maintaining a positive self-image of the own group relates to the third function of collective memory: the de-legitimization of the rival and their explanation. Negating the suffering of the outgroup unfortunately stabilizes conditions in which groups could easily commit acts of violence again, as the combination of de-legitimization and collective victimhood can be interpreted as a license to commit immoral and illegitimate atrocities to defend one’s group (Čehajić-Clancy, 2015). By de-legitimizing the account of the others, groups and their members can avoid strong unpleasant emotions such as guilt and shame when they are forcefully reminded of wrong-doingiii. However, a lack of empathy, manifest by their de-legitimization, is a key driver that undermines trust (Kappmeier, 2016, 2017; Mayer et al., 1995).

In summary, in the cycle of cold war, the collective memories of each group serve multiple protective functions for the ingroup, but also enforce the perception of the others as a non-trustworthy enemy.

Working Trust [TOP]

In addition to the exacerbating potential of collective memories, the experiences between former conflict groups are indeed based on malevolent behavior towards themselves (Kelman, 2005), cementing and justifying distrustful relations. Thus we propose that the focus of the cycle of cold war lies on building a more instrumental-calculated trust, which is based on pragmatic decisions to trust one another under certain conditions. Kelman (2005) refers to this kind of trust as “working trust”. Working trust is “a pragmatic trust in the other’s interest in achieving and maintaining peace—and therefore is not entirely dependent on surveillance as the guarantor of the agreement” (Kelman, 2010, p. 2). The recognition that it serves groups’ self-interest to cooperate enables initial cooperation, even if the self-interest of both sides is to avoid a relapse into hostilities.

Often the cycle of cold war is marked by examples of political will, with some official negotiation or agreements in place, such as ceasefires, which allow a glimpse of a future with a certain degree of coexistence (Miller, 2001). This was seen in Colombia in 2016, Northern Ireland in the 1990s, or the freshly signed peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia. But overall, and as we have seen in at least the first two examples, despite the mutual understanding that violence must end, tensions still remain; there is a perpetual risk of returning to open aggression and former conflict groups are still quite wary around each other. Under these circumstances, the collective memories of each group continue to exacerbate their divisive potential, fueling distrust.

Our model suggests that this cycle of distrust can be penetrated by aiming towards a minimal level of instrumental-calculated trust, the “working trust”, since, in the process of conflict settlement, groups have already agreed to cease the violence and work towards a less aggression-based relationship. It makes room for working trust, based on the notion that it serves the self-interest of each group to continue with conflict reduction initiatives. Kelman (2005) calls this cooperation an “uneasy coalition” (p. 639); a coalition that cuts across conflict lines, identities and collective memories, is per-se uneasy, marked by a low cohesiveness between the groups and a high degree of dissonance. Indeed, the strongest pillar of working trust is the perception that it serves the other group more to stay engaged than to disengage, even if this is based on external nudging.

For example, problem-solving workshops are a well-established tool for conflict resolution, through which, often with a third party structuring the process, members of conflict parties either engage in exchange or address specific projects (e.g. Kelman, 2008; Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, & Miall, 2016a). One such example was a problem-solving workshop series between Japan, China and Korea on strengthening economic exchanges and relationships while addressing historic grievances (Clements, 2017). In such workshops the facilitators are confronted with the task of how to turn strangers and former enemies into collaborators. They do this through explicit trust building, by strengthening working trust but also by creating opportunities for knowledge-based trust to develop (Redlich et al., 2014). Initially, these encounters are often structured around meals, as it is “very difficult to maintain an antagonistic pose when eating” (K. Clements, personal communication, August 30th 2018). Allowing former strangers to mingle over food highlights commonalities while still acknowledging differences. The notion of food and small talk seems to be a recurring theme for trust building among facilitators. As another facilitator put it: “There is no such thing as small talk. Everything is important […] That is where you build connections” (Kappmeier, 2008). Creating opportunities for positive interactions can add to the positive expectations of how others react, which strengthens trust through perceived communalities (Kappmeier, 2016).

However, while these unstructured positive interactions matter, they are not a sufficient base for groups to address critical issues, especially if the stakes are high. Working trust, with a focus on why it serves each group’s self-interest to be engaged, enables groups to get started on the process. Facilitators often apply a two-layered approach to move from working trust towards a more relationship-genuine trust by working with a shared vision, highlighting what kind of relationship would be beneficial for the groups while acknowledging current obstacles and the reality that groups cannot avoid each other, due to interdependence (Kappmeier, 2008; Redlich, 2009a; Redlich et al., 2014). In the northeast Asia problem-solving workshop, groups worked through questions such as what each group would like to see for their countries. A shared aspiration was socio-economic development and also being able to address their own security issues. It was paired with the reflection that the three countries cannot avoid interacting with each other and the impediments experienced within their current relationship. For this particular workshop, national groups were quite explicit that the historical impediments consistently jeopardized their attempts to strengthen their socio-economic and security-based cooperation. Through such an exercise, it was apparent to all participants that it served each other’s self-interest to continue with the reconciliation effort that included addressing the past (K. Clements, personal communication, August 30th 2018).

In addition to the salient self-interest, working trust was reinforced through transparency, which provided the parties with stable expectations about the process. As Kelman (2005) puts it, while parties cannot trust the others, they can trust the situation in which the exchange occurs, especially with a facilitator demonstrating commitment to the integrity of the process. Thus, working trust can be developed when parties trust the third party to be able to create a safe, clearly-defined environment that enables a first tentative contact (Kappmeier, 2008; Kelman, 2005).

Another example of how working trust develops, especially for groups caught in the cycle of cold war, is the relationship between Moldova and Transdniestria. For more than 20 years, Moldova and its Eastern break-away region Transdniestria have been locked in a frozen conflict, after experiencing a civil war in the late 1990s. Official talks were halted in 2006 but resumed in 2011 with the objective of conflict settlement. With both sides striving for two different negotiated outcomes (unification vs. separation), it seemed unlikely that either side would be willing to change its position (Kappmeier, 2012, 2016).

However, since the current status quo hurts both sides economically, negotiations to bring more prosperity to the region serve both groups’ self-interests. Thus, with outside help and nudging from the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), talks were initiated based on a fragile working trust. As we elaborate more in the following section, this working trust allowed groups to engage in the process of listening to each other’s collective memories. To expose the ingroup’s narrative and collective memory to another side, which is perceived to be hostile, is a risky procedure. With a working trust, it serves both sides’ self-interest to collaborate and it can aid in overcoming barriers of collective memories, such as locking groups in collective victimhood and in the need to establish a positive self-image. It can enable groups to engage in an exchange of their differing narratives of the conflict. Having a third party engaged that is perceived to have some influence over both sides might help to enable and keep this initial process in place.

Unchallenged Collective Memories [TOP]

To tackle the challenges that the collective memories of each group still bear, our model suggests first an exchange between the groups regarding their collective memories.

Working trust can help to keep the groups in the process of exchange, but may be unlikely to allow them to change their own group’s perceptions. Since this instrumental-calculated trust is based on the perception that it serves each side’s self-interest to stabilize non-violent relations, it may be unlikely to extend into a willingness for groups to make themselves vulnerable and threaten their own positive self-image by questioning their own moral superiority or collective victimhood.

However, working trust can allow groups to take part in encounters in which they are able to express their own narrative to the outgroup and also be exposed to the narrative of the others. This first reconciliation cycle does not aim for agreement between the conflicting narratives or changes of the groups’ narratives. It mainly focuses on exposing the groups to the possibility of differing narratives (Branscombe, Doosje, & McGarty, 2002). This cycle is marked by a factual and information-based exchange of each group’s own collective memory (Licata et al., 2007). A factual and information-based exchange refers to a process in which both groups recall their own narrative of particular events and the conflict overall. This process is intended to give them room to express their version of the narrative, some of which is based on historical events, but the interpretation of these events are skewed to serve each group’s needs.

Licata et al. (2007) stress that in the process of the unchallenged exchange, each group is still in charge of their own narrative, as they share it with the other side. They do not need to verify facts or to justify the collective memories yet. This cycle puts an emphasis on the outgroup’s willingness and ability to listen to the narrative of the ingroup and be receptive in the exchange. Given that collective memories can be contradictory, this is a challenging task for former conflict groups and information that poses a threat to the perceived collective victimhood and positive self-image will most likely be rejected and met with backlash. Unchallenged refers to the idea that even though the other side probably does not agree with the ingroup’s recollection or interpretation of the past, there is no pressure to change it yet. Even though there is no expectation or pressure yet to take on or include the outgroup’s version into the ingroup’s collective memory, mere exposure to the outgroup’s specific collective memory holds the potential to be severely rejected, as it is likely to trigger unpleasant group-based emotions. Having this process embedded in working trust can keep the groups involved in the process and can help them to continue working together.

For example, as part of the official negotiations between Moldova and Transdniestria, an expert group on Education and Science was formed. In 2012, the group was able to address a highly contentious question regarding the status of Moldovan speaking schools in Transdniestria. The number of Moldovan speaking schools in Trandsniestria had decreased tremendously over the past two decades and the collective memories of both groups greatly differed regarding the schools’ role (Wolff, 2012). For Moldovans the schools are representative of martyrs and the suppression of Moldovan speakers in Transdniestria. For Transdniestria the schools are another example of Romanian and Moldovan subversive efforts to undermine Transdniestrian authority and independence (Kappmeier, 2012; Wolff, 2012). Listening to the other side’s narrative of this escalated conflict issue can be aggravating and frustrating for the involved groups. They may believe that the other side is using their narrative to manipulate them, to try to gain the moral upper hand and to push their own agenda. For example, it does not fit the Trandsniestrian narrative of being suppressed and subverted when confronted with the Moldovan-speakers’ view of suppression while seeking to gain an education in their native language. The Trandsniestrians’ perception does not account for the struggle the children endure on a daily basis by traveling long distances and crossing the unofficial border. For the Trandsniestrians, the children are pawns used by the Moldovans to further their agenda. Having perceptions challenged can be deeply upsetting and often threatened the viability of the working group However, acknowledging that it was in the best interest of both sides to continue working in this small group, which was embedded in broader negotiations hosted by independent third parties, allowed them to refocus and to continue working despite the tension.

Being confronted with the moral digression of one’s own group can trigger unpleasant emotions of guilt. Research suggests that working through group-based guilt, with a focus on misdeeds and their consequences, relates to attempts to right the wrongs of the past. For groups to be receptive to experiencing group-based guilt, ingroup appraisal of the past event has to change with a shift from moral disengagement to an awareness of past deeds (Čehajić-Clancy, 2015). Not feeling under pressure to change one’s own positive self-awareness immediately raises awareness of an alternative narrative, which can then be the seed to change the appraisal of the narrative (Čehajić-Clancy, 2015; Leach, Bou Zeineddine, & Čehajić-Clancy, 2013). For example, the Moldovan-Trandsniestrian working group did not aim to change the narrative about the Moldovan-speaking schools. Having the groups exposed to a different narrative was the best possible outcome under those circumstances. Our model builds on the notion that exposure to the other’s collective memory, without the pressure to accept it as the truth, can allow for trust relations to change.

In summary, the process of the first cycle focuses solely on the expression of the ingroup’s narrative and exposure to the outgroup’s narrative. The ideal desired outcome of a virtuous cycle is that collective memories are exchanged, but remain unchallenged. Embedding this process on working trust provides the process with a pragmatic relationship within which the exchange can take place.

Actors and Dissemination [TOP]

An important question concerns the process through which groups engage during this initial stage. For the cycle of cold war, we propose that political will is needed to initiate a top-down process. Structures that ensure institutional support of the reconciliation process have to be formed. These structures are critical to the sustainability and dissemination of psychological changes on the macro level (Staub, 2006). As Pratto, Sidanius, and Levin (2006) point out, “institutions can mobilize and allocate vastly larger amounts of resources than individuals can. In addition, large institutions, such as national governments, have a larger ‘reach’ in systematic influence across locales” (p. 278). This again reflects that our model mainly applies to groups that are able to form charters as an institutionalized version of collective memory (Liu & Hilton, 2005)—that is, groups that have more organizational structures. Through a top-down process, policy makers can support meetings between groups in which experts, such as historians, psychologists, educators and journalists, develop initiatives to disseminate and promote the exchange of collective memories.

Alternatively, previous research has shown that media programs can change audiences’ perceptions of social norms and of the outgroup (e.g., Bilali & Vollhardt, 2013; Paluck, 2009; Paluck & Green, 2009; Trew, Muldoon, McKeow, & McLaughlin, 2009). Although the media channel is not being used to build Shared Collective Memory at this point, it could support the possible dissemination of the outgroup’s collective memory. When groups are willing to broaden their media, which is often used for propaganda during the conflict, merely learning about the outgroup’s collective memory will increase knowledge about the other group. This is an important part of knowledge-based trust in the reconciliation cycle of cold peace, and also prepares the broader society for the fact that their own collective memory is not the sole representation of history.

Of course, round tables with experts to discuss each group narrative can be formed without the initiative of governmental leadership, and this has been done in the past (e.g., Adwan & Bar-On, 2007). These are important conflict reconciliation tools and we by no means suggest that a top-down approach is the only feasible avenue for a peace building initiative. However, we predict that political will is needed during the stage of cold war if the objective is to move towards cold peace and eventually warm peace and the building of a Shared Collective Memory. Political will can support round tables and ensure that the outcomes find their way, for example, into school books and the media. This is one of many challenges encountered in the case of Moldova and Transdniestria. The political will needed to move from conflict settlement to resolution is still missing. While there are many people-to-people projects in effect, they are only limited venues for dissemination while many political elites continue to embrace the status quo (Kappmeier, Fütterer, & Redlich, 2014).

Cycle 2 – Cold Peace [TOP]

The cycle of cold peace is arguably the stage most commonly reached by post-conflict societies. The violent hostilities are over and formal agreements are in place, which allows relations to be strengthened between groups. In addition to protecting their own interests, groups are more able to address their basic needs and fears (Kelman, 2010).

Going through a virtuous cycle of cold war, working trust can slowly give way to a less pragmatic but more relationship-genuine based trust, which may allow basic needs and fears to be addressed, thus making groups more vulnerable but also more human to the other (Redlich, 2009b).

However, stable peaceful relations without the threat of declining into the cycle of cold war have yet to be reached (Miller, 2001). The collective memories of each group may still have the potential to be divisive, and thus need to be addressed.

Potential Challenges Destabilizing the Cycle of Cold Peace [TOP]

Our model proposes that if the cycle of cold war plays out virtuously, groups might have some form of exposure to the narrative of the outgroup, which can pave the way to realizing that there exist more than just the ingroup’s narratives.

While the dividing collective memories still serve similar functions as in the earlier stage, we predict that they will create two more specific challenges that damage the fragile intergroup trust: (1) competitive victimhood (Noor, Shnabel, Halabi, & Nadler, 2012), and (2) rejection of the ‘winners’ justice’ (Páez & Liu, 2015).

Competitive victimhood [TOP]

Without developing a more relationship-genuine knowledge-based trust, groups can still be caught in their own collective victimhood. This could even be intensified by exposure to the outgroup’s narrative, the objective of the previous cycle, as conflict is often perceived as a zero-sum game (Bar-Tal, 2007; Crocker, Hampson, & Aall, 2009). Every acknowledgment or concession made towards the others, including acknowledging their collective memories, can be perceived as a total loss for the ingroup. Consequently, the suffering experienced by the ingroup is weighed more heavily than any potential suffering of the other.

Competitive victimhood entails that groups still experience a collective sense of victimization, and claim that they have suffered more than the outgroup, thereby building a sense of victimhood at the expense of recognition of the other group’s suffering. Competitive victimhood also justifies violence committed towards the outgroup, as it is framed as less severe and more legitimate than that endured by the ingroup (Noor, Brown, & Prentice, 2008b; Noor et al., 2012). Furthermore, in a conflict setting in which moral superiority is linked to victimhood, groups have a high incentive to uphold their victim status (Pilecki & Hammack, 2014).

Competitive victimhood nourishes the intergroup conflict by providing groups with a fundamental reason to maintain the status quo or exacerbate the conflict. Each group can use the other’s past transgressions to justify their present animosity and foster distrust (Bar-Tal, 2000; Rosoux, 2006; Staub, 2000).

One suggested approach during the earlier cycle of cold war is that groups should only be exposed to the outgroup’s narrative as a mechanism to create a condition through which groups are more able to engage with their own group-based guilt. However, one consequence could be that this exposure reinforces the groups’ competitive victimhood, which predicts less outgroup trust (Noor et al., 2008b). Competitive victimhood, just like collective victimhood more generally, can increase perceived threat and impair the perceived security of the groups, a mechanism which undermines and destroys trust (Kappmeier, 2016, 2017). Competitive victimhood is somewhat paradoxical; although it reflects groups’ common desire for validation and empathy, the competitive mindset may prevent reciprocal exchange (Noor et al., 2012). An inability to extend empathy and compassion towards these others is another driver that undermines trust (Čehajić-Clancy, 2015; Mayer et al., 1995).

Rejecting the winner’s justice [TOP]

Competitive victimhood is closely related to a second challenge, a rejection of any outside claims that negatively judge the actions of the ingroup.

The objective of the cycle of cold peace is that groups move beyond exposing their collective memories to each other but start engaging and adapting their own accounts. However, at the beginning of the cycle, groups are more likely to reject narratives that can be seen as “winner justice,” a narrative forced by outsiders. Páez and Liu (2015) link this rejection to the need of groups to protect their positive self-image. Marques, Páez, Valencia, and Vincze (2006) have shown that the rejection is reinforced through internal cognitive biases, through which groups more easily remember the wrong-doing of others than their own wrong-doing. Thus, when challenged about their own account and asked to reflect in their own narrative that the others also suffered, they are more likely to reject this narrative as a self-serving bias of the outgroup, especially since the information processing supports their own skewed representation. An often encountered narrative in Moldovan-Trandsniestrian relations was that both sides accused each other of human rights violations. These accusations fed each group’s collective memory that they were on the receiving end of violence, while not taking into account that their own group committed similar wrong-doings. When their own human rights violations were brought forward, the accusations were rejected not only as unfounded, but also as serving the agenda of the others who were trying to get the upper hand (Kappmeier, 2012).

In summary, during the transition from cold war to cold peace, according to our model groups have built a fragile pragmatic trust but going forward need to challenge their own narrative while still being caught in their own victimhood. This may increase the perceived threat of the others, but also diminishes any empathy felt for them. As long as the trust relationship between the groups does not exceed the pragmatic self-interest that defines working trust, it can be challenging for groups to engage in an honest exchange about their shared past. Without a more relationship-genuine trust, groups are less likely to overcome their own cognitive biases, be willing to make themselves vulnerable to others, and acknowledge their suffering. The challenge is to build this relation-based trust, making room for the perception that the others are not a threat, and instead also worthy of the ingroup’s compassion.

Knowledge-Based Trust [TOP]

Ideally, by working through a virtuous cycle of cold war, groups have reached a relatively stable situation in which their mutual trust is mostly based on pragmatism. Former conflict groups have gained increased knowledge about each other. While some of these interactions may have confirmed negative expectations about the others, through an overall virtuous cycle, groups have been exposed to positive experiences of each side’s willingness to move towards a peaceful future together. These encounters can provide the basis of knowledge-based trust, developed through recurring positive interactions with others (Kappmeier, 2017; Lewicki, Tomlinson, & Gillespie, 2006). Positive experiences can show that the relationship between the groups holds the potential to go beyond pragmatism to a relationship-genuine trust, such as knowledge-based trust. Knowledge-based trust is a more cognitively driven trust, where beliefs and judgments about the other’s trustworthiness are based on cognitive decisions, as well as reflections on prior experiences, relations and conditions (Lewicki et al., 2006).

During the first cycle specified in the model, groups had some exposure to the outgroup’s collective memory. They heard how the outgroup frames the conflict and what chosen trauma (Volkan, 2006) they emphasize. In an ideal virtuous cycle, groups have learned what motivates the outgroup to collaborate towards reconciliation and they gain insight into how receptive and respectful the outgroup can be to their own narrative. For example, in the context of the Northeast Asian problem-solving workshops, one recurring obstacle was the perception that Japan does not sincerely admit the atrocities committed during WWII. Even though Japan has apologized for its role in WWII, China and the Chinese participants did not believe that the apology was genuine, nor that Japan was genuine in its attempt at reconciliation (Clements, 2017; Shibata, 2017). While the Japanese academic participants were receptive towards this sentiment and were willing to acknowledge the past suffering caused by Japan, the military participants were quite opposed to that notion, especially during the first workshop. However, they did acknowledge that the shared military exercises between the three nations suffered substantially due to the strained relations. This understanding created enough working trust to at least engage in intra-group conversation. Through positive iterative interaction during and between the problem-solving workshop sessions, the Japanese military participants learned more about their international counterparts and their motives and values. Working trust slowly gave room to more knowledge-based trust. During the second problem-solving workshop one year later, even the Japanese military participants were willing and able to engage in this difficult conversation of acknowledging the committed atrocities by Japan (K. Clements, personal communication, August 30th 2018)

South Africa provides an example of successful movement from the reconciliation cycle of cold war to the reconciliation cycle of cold peace. In 1994, South Africa’s apartheid era ended, and the country successfully embarked on a peaceful transition with free elections. One main driver for this development was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Initially the overall population of South Africa did not accept the TRC as a vehicle for peace. The African National Congress (ANC) and the white population believed that the TRC could lead to a ‘witch hunt’ (Gibson, 2006). However, as the process continued, it became apparent that the TRC followed strict rules and values of impartiality. As a result, South Africans were satisfied with its work (Gibson, 2006). The public television broadcast of the TRC every Sunday from April 1996 until March 1998 helped build knowledge-based trust among the whole population. It was transparent that the TRC aimed to have an even-handed, unbiased process based on integrity, a fundamental dimension of trust (Kappmeier, 2016; Mayer et al., 1995). This process supported the creation of the collective memories of both sides, in which each group’s actions (good and bad) were reflected and incorporated. This factual information as well as information about how the outgroup conducted itself during the reconciliation process contributed to knowledge-based trust.

Challenged Collective Memories [TOP]

The objective of the cycle of cold peace goes beyond mere exposure to collective memories. This cycle aims for groups to engage in and discuss each other’s collective memories. Ideally groups are able to share their collective memories, to explain how their collective memories have shaped their group identity, and to present how the collective memory has affected them as a group. In the reconciliation cycle of cold war, groups could still dismiss the other’s account. However, for a virtuous reconciliation cycle of cold peace to unfold, groups ideally take the outgroup’s reaction towards the collective memory into account. This holds the potential for beginning to question to some extent their own narrative, gaining awareness of its limitation or if and how it omits the outgroup’s experiences. Thus, in an ideal process the conversations go beyond establishing which events and facts took place, but include their respective legitimization and impact as well (Licata et al., 2007). Experiencing uncomfortable group-based emotions, such as guilt and shame, will be harder to avoid. At the same time, there is still a risk that groups will insist on their unique victimhood to maintain their moral superiority (Pilecki & Hammack, 2014). Without some degree of relationship-genuine trust between groups, this process is in danger of derailing due to the damaging influence of competitive victimhood and the urge to override unpleasant group-based emotions.

If groups are able to develop a more stable knowledge-based trust, we propose that an ideal and virtuous cycle of cold peace allows the addressing of three foci: First, groups can challenge the narrative of the outgroup. They can disagree with others’ recollection of events and question if they really happened as described. Second, although there may be agreement that specific events took place, the groups may disagree with how these events are interpreted. And last, groups can disagree on how the outgroup perceives the ingroup’s narrative and interpretation. For example, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa explicitly focused on the human rights violations committed by all groups (Knox & Quirk, 2000), which confronted each group’s perception of being solely a victim and not a perpetrator. Therefore, for some groups, the collective memories that were shaped through the TRC challenged the perception that it was only the Whites who were perpetrators during the apartheid and recognized that the liberation forces harmed both Blacks and Whites in the struggle (Gibson, 2006).

Challenging collective memories is not an easy process and it tests the fragile relationship of knowledge-based trust. If it unfolds in an ideal way, it can trigger a reciprocal process, as was the case in South Africa. The knowledge that the TRC was indeed even-handed increased the Whites’ trust in the process, opening the door to a willingness to accept responsibility for the atrocities committed under the apartheid regime (Gibson, 2006). Reciprocally having more knowledge-based trust of Whites’ sincerity towards the reconciliation process may have positively impacted the willingness of Blacks to challenge their own collective memory.

In summary, an exchange in which each group has accepted the questioning of its own narrative can lead to altered collective memories, where groups can recognize their own wrong-doings and the victimization of the outgroup. However, this process still holds the risk that groups can fall into blaming each other for their wrong-doings and engage in competitive victimhood. If groups are too focused on maintaining their victimhood, blaming each other without reflecting on their own wrong-doings, there is the danger of relapsing into the cycle of cold war.

This is a dynamic often encountered in facilitated dialogue-based interventions focusing on reconciliation, such as the previous mentioned problem-solving workshop. While this research shows how challenging it is for parties to be exposed to the narrative of the other side (e.g. Spillmann & Kollars, 2010), to consider the other’s viewpoint (e.g. Badawi, Sipes, & Sternberg, 2012), or have their own representation challenged (e.g. Maoz, 2011; Pilecki & Hammack, 2014), intervention work also suggests that groups are capable of working through this resistance (e.g. Kellen, Bekerman, & Maoz, 2013; Kelman, 2008). Work on intractable and identity-based conflict has shown that addressing phases of antagonism, where groups express their blame towards the outgroup and their feelings of victimization, can be part of a productive process, but only if they are able to move beyond this stage and express what the experience has meant for the group (e.g. Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, & Miall, 2016b; Rothman, 1997, 2012).

Dialogue work has shown that mere exposure to the other narrative can change the perception of one’s own group, even if it does not include embracing the outgroup’s point of view (Ron & Maoz, 2013). Thus, third parties, such as mediators and facilitators can help to create a forum in which groups engage in a structured process that enables groups to listen to each other and acknowledge their suffering (Kelman, 2008; Ron & Maoz, 2013). Furthermore, as previously mentioned, third parties can lend integrity to the process, help groups to structure communication, and encourage listening and respectful responses to each other’s narratives (Dessel & Ali, 2012; Kelman, 2005; Maoz & Ellis, 2008).

If all groups engage in the process it creates the opportunity for everyone to build further positive knowledge-based trust towards the others, as well as sincere engagement in the reconciliation process and reflection on one’s own grievances. Thus, keeping the groups in the process through knowledge-based trust can increase groups’ willingness to reflect on their own past wrong-doings, something groups tend to avoid otherwise (Leach et al., 2013).

Actors and Dissemination [TOP]

To challenge the collective memory of the ingroup, we suggest that the process has to penetrate the whole society. Just as with the cycle of cold war, we envision that this process is not possible without the support of governmental institutions.

However, it has to be picked up at the community level as well. The challenge of the collective memory cannot happen just at the leadership level, but it also has to reach the broader society. Hence, knowledge-based trust has to be established on the societal level as well. In addition to the media, local committees can support the establishment of knowledge-based trust and facilitate discussions between groups to allow for each respective collective memory to be challenged. In South Africa, in addition to the existing NGOs, local peace committees were established to foster the transition in the country. While they did not explicitly address the problem of collective memories, such organizations can serve as potential vehicles to include civil society in the discussion of each collective memory.

An example of a successful combination of a top-down and a bottom-up process is the rewriting of school books. When a challenged collective memory is included in school books that questions the ingroup’s chosen traumas and glories and takes the narrative of the outgroup into account, it allows for horizontal dissemination and it ensures generational sustainability. This process is not without its challenges. South Africa, for example, faced a lack of financial resources necessary to print new school books, as well as a lack of unbiased commissions to ensure that the minority perspective of Whites was also maintained (Engelbrecht, 2008; Pingel, 2008). Germany’s textbooks on French-German relations are a more successful example. German and French textbooks both emphasize the shared values of a European identity (Sakki, 2014). However, while Germany was quite successful after WWII with creating shared accepted collective memories and finding conflict resolution with France and Israel, it was less successful with Eastern countries, such as Poland (Gardner Feldman, 1999).

Cycle 3 – Warm Peace [TOP]

The final reconciliation cycle in our model is warm peace. We envision that it will take time for the final reconciliation cycle to be put in place, possibly long after the conflict as a dividing event has faded. Moving into warm peace, groups no longer perceive each other to be a threat in the foreseeable future (Miller, 2001), and are confident of a peaceful resolution of all differences. This stage does not describe a utopia. Tensions may still exist. However, there should be a shared agreement that these tensions will be addressed peacefully, with a low degree of escalation, rather than forcefully.

Not all former conflict groups will reach this cycle of warm peace, as it not only requires challenging one’s own collective memory, but also constructing a Shared Collective Memory with the former outgroup.

Moving towards a Shared Collective Memory holds the potential to further unite groups as partners. While the more cognitively driven knowledge-based trust fostered through the second cycle supports the alteration of collective memory, we suggest that an identity-based trust, which is more affective and emotional, is needed to move toward a Shared Collective Memory, as it impacts the self-perception and the identity of the ingroup.

Identification-based trust moves beyond knowledge of the motives and the abilities of the outgroup, to the perception that both groups identify with each other’s needs and values (Lewicki & Bunker, 1995). This deeper trust enables groups to build a Shared Collective Memory that represents their narrative in a mutually acceptable way. The cycle of warm peace is marked with the internalization of the new relationship and its integration into each group’s identity (Kelman, 2010).

Potential Challenges Destabilizing the Cycle of Warm Peace [TOP]

During a virtuous cycle of cold peace, groups’ own collective memories were challenged, and they were pushed to widen their collective memory to include the suffering of the outgroup and the moral digression of their own group. Creating a Shared Collective Memory as the final cycle of the trust-based reconciliation model still presents challenges, which can destabilize the process. Firstly, groups are faced with the challenge of needing to agree on which information is incorporated into their Shared Collective Memory, which historical events are highlighted, which victimizations gain recognition, and which are left out. Secondly, once an agreement is reached, the Shared Collective Memory needs to be maintained, including aspects of the own group’s wrongdoing. This leads to a potential third challenge, apology fatigue (Shibata, 2017).

Agreeing on the content of a Shared Collective Memory [TOP]

Even though ideally previous reconciliation cycles help groups to challenge their own collective memory, the destructive functions of collective memories can still be at play during the final cycle of the trust-based reconciliation model. A Shared Collective Memory aims to be representative of the experiences of both groups, which includes atrocities committed by the own group. This again conflicts with striving to maintain a positive image. We propose that to engage with the other in this process, a more affective-based trust than knowledge-based trust is needed.

Trusting the other on a cognitive, knowledge-based rational, is unlikely to be sufficient for the creation of a Shared Collective Memory, which holds the potential to change the self-perception and identity of one’s own group. We propose that identity-based trust can help groups identify with the objective of the Shared Collective Memory and aid groups to agree on its content.

Maintenance of the Shared Collective Memory [TOP]

A Shared Collective Memory needs to be maintained, which can put continuous strain on the groups’ relationship as they may disagree on the specific emphasis within their Shared Collective Memory. The challenges arising in the second cycle of cold peace may still be at play in the cycle of warm peace. Some content that does not favor one’s own group can easily be rejected as ‘winner’s justice’ (Páez & Liu, 2015); groups can threaten to change the shared narrative or pull out of it altogether. For example, in South Africa, while there was shared agreement that atrocities were committed on both sides, this narrative was not put into an official shared representation of the past (Engelbrecht, 2008; Pingel, 2008). This rejection not only inhibits the development of a deeper trust, it can also damage the knowledge-based trust developed in the cycle of cold peace and thus threaten to thrust groups from a virtuous cycle into a vicious one.

Maintenance of a Shared Collective Memory is an ongoing process to which groups need to commit across generations. For example, in the aftermath of WWII, there was a broad agreement on the Shared Collective Memories between Germany and the former allies, which included an understanding of Germany’s perpetrator role (Seungryeol, 2009). The narrative was incorporated in school books, and reflected in actions taken by governments across all political parties (Gardner Feldman, 1999). Of course, as with all charters (the representation of official collective memories), there were groups that disagreed on the Shared Collective Memory of post-war Europe. However, during the German general election of 2017, for the first time since WWII, a major political party campaigned on a view that countered the Shared Collective Memory of Germany as the perpetrator and instead claimed Germany’s victimhood. This party gained substantial support, not only from the fringes of society, but across the societal spectrum, and became the third strongest of the six established parties (Bundestagswahl, 2017; Erk, 2017). This example illustrates that reaching a Shared Collective Memory is by no means the end of a reconciliation process; rather, it needs to be maintained, adapted and defended within the changing relationship of the groups. The wavering commitment to the Shared Collective Memory seen recently in Germany leads to a third challenge for the Shared Collective Memory: Apology Fatigue.

Apology fatigue [TOP]

Apology fatigue refers to one group’s sense that they have apologized enough, linked to a feeling that there is “never enough”, that the other group will never be satisfied with apologies uttered by the ingroup (Shibata, 2017). Thus, apology fatigue may draw groups back into a collective victimhood, not based on the victimization that occurred in the actual conflict, but victimization that has appeared during the conflict transformation process.

Identification-Based Trust [TOP]

We propose that to create and maintain a Shared Collective Memory, groups need to identify with the process itself and with the values attached to the Shared Collective Memory. To address the challenges to agree on a Shared Collective Memory, groups need to include each other as an inherent part of the relationship, worthy of protection, a process requiring the more affective, identification-based trust (Lewicki, 2006). If the process of challenging each other’s collective memory and getting to know the outgroup’s values unfolds virtuously, it can lead to a resonance between groups regarding not only values, but also desires and needs (Lewicki, 2006). Identification-based trust requires that each group understands and accepts the other’s wants. It is based on the positive expectation that there is a mutual understanding between the groups, that the others share an identification with one’s own needs and intentions (Lewicki, 2006). In fact, groups can act as agents for each other’s welfare (Lewicki & Bunker, 1995). With identification-based trust, groups can trust that the outgroup endorses their narrative and will make sure that their narrative is represented fairly in the new Shared Collective Memory.

However, this identification is context-dependent. In the context of our model, groups approaching the cycle of warm peace can develop identification-based trust when it comes to the development of a Shared Collective Memory, but this does not necessary include for example restructuring their defense forces or economic market.

Today, New Zealand is rated as the second most peaceful country in the world (Vision of Humanities, 2017) and is popularly, albeit uncritically, perceived as a society that is overcoming intergroup conflict between the dominant group Pākehā, New Zealander, which includes everyone who is non-Māori (a group which is predominantly European New Zealanders), and Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Pākehā and Māori have gone some way to creating a Shared Collective Memory, even though this Shared Collective Memory is often written from the Pākehā point of view. It is noteworthy that Māori are not a homogenous group, and identify strongly with iwi (tribal) groupings. While there are differences in how colonization and the relationship with Pākehā were experienced by different iwi, there is a representation of a Shared Collective Memory, which is centered around the Treaty of Waitangi, a key event in Pākehā and Māori collective memories. The Treaty, drafted in 1840, established a legal mechanism which enabled Great Britain to annex New Zealand. The Treaty purported to create a mutually beneficial relationship and thus peaceful cooperation between Māori and the Crown. The Treaty is an important part of the Shared Collective Memory, as it has both positively and negatively influenced the psychological and institutional structure of New Zealand (Liu & Hilton, 2005), and serves as the foundation of New Zealand’s self-perception as a bicultural nation (Ward & Liu, 2012).

However, even though the Treaty was signed in 1840, it was not until 1970 that it became part of the public discourse with greater engagement from Pākehā and only after many civil protests from Māori communities. Improved intergroup relations between Māori and Pākehā were reflected in many ways, including the recognition of Māori as an official language in 1987 and identification of Māori culture as unique to New Zealand by the more dominant Pākehā group (Ward & Liu, 2012). In the past twenty years, there has been a shift within the Pākehā community, with greater, but still not universal, identification with New Zealand as a bicultural society (Hill, 2010; Ward & Liu, 2012). Even though this does not eradicate ethnic inequality, it gave room for a shared social contract, in which Pākehā recognize the need to preserve and promote Māori heritage (Hill, 2010; Hill & Bönisch-Brednich, 2007; Sibley, Hoverd, & Liu, 2011), creating a potential base for identification-based trust between the two groups.

Shared Collective Memory [TOP]

The final reconciliation cycle of our model aims to construct a Shared Collective Memory. We propose that the development of identification-based trust can allow groups to distance themselves from their separate collective memories and, by building on exchanges and discussions which occurred in the virtuous cycle of cold peace, move together towards a common post-conflict representation.

This dialogue is crucial in the reconciliation process as it includes a shared reflection on the journey of both groups towards peace (Licata et al., 2007). It is important to note that building a Shared Collective Memory with the outgroup adds to, rather than wipes out, the intra-group memory. As already mentioned, even though the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, it was at the peak of civil rights protests by Māori in the 1970s that New Zealand experienced an invigorated discourse, which created space in the dominant culture to value Māori collective memory. As a result, educational curriculum requires that students are taught about the Treaty of Waitaingi. Māori and Pākehā still hold on to their collective memory, including recollections of the achievements of their own ancestors. However, it also needs to include the tensions and wrongdoings committed. For example, only recently was there also a push to teach the New Zealand wars in all schools which entails acknowledging the violence committed against Māori communities during colonization (Leaman, 2018). The Shared Collective Memory, which centers on the Treaty, is an example of peaceful reconciliation that influences the self-identification of Pākehā and Māori, and leads towards a bicultural nation. The endorsement of the Shared Collective Memory is visible in the association of New Zealand with symbols of Māori culture, as can be seen on the New Zealand passport. As an official document in a Commonwealth nation, it features the British crown but also includes representations that honor Māori culture. Other representations of the Shared Collective Memory are the national anthem, which is commonly sung in both English and in te reo Māori, as well as the slow renaming of landmarks such as mountains from their English names to their Māori names.

One of the challenges in creating a Shared Collective Memory is the arrival at a common understanding of how both narratives can be integrated. This may involve reframing the shared history into a broader historical context, so that the history is not completely defined by the conflict. Since the Shared Collective Memory gears towards an interdependent future, components of the Shared Collective Memory should support the stabilization of relations. This could be fostered through the development of shared symbols, traditions, and holidays.

An example of such a tradition in New Zealand is the haka. The haka is a ceremonial Māori dance and was traditionally performed between Māori tribes either on the battlefield or when they came together peacefully. The haka itself is fully integrated as a New Zealand tradition, embraced by all New Zealanders (Clements, 1998). The national rugby team, the All Blacks, has performed the haka prior to any of its rugby matches since the team’s first international appearance in 1905. Rugby is the national sport of New Zealand and a driving source of national pride and identity.

In 1974, Waitangi Day became an official public holiday in New Zealand to commemorate the signing of the treaty. However, Waitangi Day itself has not gained a unifying status and rather is used by both sides to air their grievance about shortcomings in the relations (McAllister, 2007). This highlights that, like the previous cycles of reconciliation, building a Shared Collective Memory includes navigating in- and outgroup dynamics, which may not always be easy. The development of an identification-based trust and the knowledge that each side can serve as an agent for the maintenance and propagation of the other’s narrative, will ease these discussions.

In New Zealand, the discussion led to the modern New Zealanders’ self-representation of a bicultural country. However, in times of stress, these identifications can waver or the interpretation of how the Shared Collective Memory impacts modern interactions can differ. For example, the official discourse of Pākehā is to honor the Treaty of Waitangi. However, the Treaty grants the Māori special land privileges, which have been continuous since 1840, with a notable escalation in the early 2000s: The New Zealand Court ruled that the Māori could seek special access rights to the foreshore and seabed through the Māori Land Court (O’Sullivan, 2008). This decision triggered a furore among Pākehā and led to a highly contested political process through which access rights were shifted from the Māori Land Court to the Crown (O’Sullivan, 2008; Ward & Liu, 2012). Thus, even though there is symbolic inclusion of the Māori, it can easily be challenged when tangible resources are at stake and a conflict issue is presented in a zero-sum manner (Ward & Liu, 2012). Thus, having a Shared Collective Memory does not magically erase all intergroup tensions. It, like peace, is an ongoing process that requires continual engagement. However, identification-based trust can motivate both groups to preserve the Shared Collective Memory, as both identities are threatened by its weakening. It is notable that the protest groups against this controversial ruling in New Zealand consisted of both Māori and Pākehā. It also highlights an important reality of our model of reconciliation: Tensions will always exist between post-conflict groups despite the existence of a Shared Collective Memory. However, just because the relations are not perfect, it does not negate the progress that has been made.

The processes of building a Shared Collective Memory and trust are fluid. Therefore, a Shared Collective Memory that bridges elements of intergroup dynamics can revert to separate collective memories. Identification-based trust, reflecting that each group understands the other’s desires and needs, can regress to knowledge-based trust, working-trust or even distrust, through trust violations.

Accordingly, we propose that the construction of a Shared Collective Memory is not enough. It has to be actively embedded, honored and activated through official discourse, which begets more identification-based trust, and this in turn strengthens the Shared Collective Memory and its dissemination.

Actors and Dissemination [TOP]

As previously discussed, a Shared Collective Memory needs not only to be built, but also disseminated and maintained. For a virtuous cycle of warm peace, we envision that this process needs to involve both lay-people and policy makers. Peace requires the support and endorsement of key players in the nation’s structure, from political, educational, and cultural realms (Rouhana & Bar-Tal, 1998). That said, when governments take steps towards peace, they must gain the support of the public by using cultural mechanisms to disseminate new ideas, values, and beliefs. For a new Shared Collective Memory to be sustained, it has to be endorsed by the society and it has to become ingrained in their public identity. During the past 30 years in New Zealand, for example, the national self-understanding as an ethnically homogeneous society of European settlers (Ward & Liu, 2012) changed towards the self-understanding of New Zealand as a bicultural society. Museums and widespread symbols also support the endorsement of the Shared Collective Memory from a bottom-up perspective. For example, the national museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, was actively recreated in the 1980s to reflect New Zealand’s increasingly diverse community and the renewed view of the nation's bicultural history and identity. To reflect the partnership between the Māori and Pākehā, the board of the museum consulted people nationwide, including iwi (tribal groups), about their visions for the museum. This engaged the people in the creation of a new Shared Collective Memory and consolidated the existing collective memory of both groups (Te Papa, 2015).

Discussion [TOP]

Much attention has been paid to collective memory as a means of propelling groups toward conflict, while much less attention has been given to collective memory as a means of reconciliation. Undoubtedly, collective memories fuel conflict, but we suggest that they could also be used as a tool for reconciliation. Our model proposes that the process of trust building is a crucial, parallel and inextricably intertwined process. Thus, our model, which suggests the use of trust as a way to build a Shared Collective Memory, provides a base from which further empirical research can be derived. We believe our model can also address the aforementioned three paradoxes of reconciliation proposed by Lederach (1997). First, reconciliation requires groups to address the painful past while creating an interdependent future together. In our model, the first two cycles of cold war and cold peace allow for the acknowledgement of experienced victimization and the pain of both groups, while the third cycle of warm peace explicitly focuses on strengthening an interdependent future through the development of a Shared Collective Memory. Second, reconciliation should simultaneously provide a place for truth and mercy. In our model, acknowledging the outgroup’s collective memory and challenging the ingroup’s collective memory during the cycle of cold peace addresses this paradox. It provides room for the past while fact checking and belief challenging allows for the truth to be uncovered. The improvement of intergroup relations through the development of knowledge-based trust allows for mercy. Third, reconciliation requires a time and place for justice and peace, in which groups can address the wrongs of the past, with the aim of “envision[ing] the common connected future” (p. 31). For us, this very much summarizes the purpose of our model.

As already discussed, building a Shared Collective Memory will not create a utopia where groups live without any tension or conflict. Nevertheless, the key problem is not tension, but violence. We expect that reaching a reconciliation cycle of warm peace with a Shared Collective Memory will prevent intergroup relations from deteriorating and stop groups from slipping back into earlier cycles of reconciliation. However, we do expect that intergroup tensions will still exist and groups will still hold on to their own collective memories.

We also suggest that groups will not share a comprehensive identification-based trust in all their interactions during warm peace. Not every group interaction will involve their Shared Collective Memory. For example, we do not predict that business groups will share the same deep level of trust in their interactions. Trust is target- and context-specific, and thus can vary in its degree depending on the interaction in which it is embedded.

Conclusion [TOP]

Collective memory is one specific barrier to reconciliation. While the majority of research shows its impeding impact, not much work has been done on how collective memory can be used to stabilize peaceful relations between former conflict groups. Additionally, very little research focuses on the supporting mechanism of trust behind collective memory. Therefore, our reconciliation model focuses not only on the potential of collective memory to aid in reaching the cycle of warm peace, but also on the process of parallel trust building. By identifying three distinct cycles of reconciliation (cold war, cold peace, and warm peace) classified by specific degrees of trust (working, knowledge-based, and identification-based), the model provides a road map, albeit a rocky one, with which groups can move from cold war to warm peace. Given that our model is embedded in the societal context of intergroup reconciliation, it does not claim to answer all questions. However, the aim of our paper is to introduce a theoretical model, to provide a reflection on the process by which a Shared Collective Memory can be built in parallel with trust, and to suggest an avenue for further empirical research.

Notes [TOP]

i) In this paper, we will focus on the phenomenon of collective memory. For an extensive discussion about the links between collective memory and Social Identity, see Bikmen (2013) and Mercy (2012) or Licata and Mercy (2015).

ii) Although our model does not address the critical question of how groups move out of active conflict, several existing theories do focus on this issue. For a more extensive discussion refer to ripeness theory from Zartman (2000) and the readiness theory (Pruitt, 2007) both of which were further refined through the dynamic system model on reconstructing ripeness from Coleman, Hacking, Stover, Fisher-Yoshida, and Nowak (2008). See also Coleman, Fisher-Yoshida, Stover, Hacking, and Bartoli (2008).

iii) For a more extensive discussion on group-based emotions, see Čehajić-Clancy (2015).

Funding [TOP]

The authors have no funding to report.

Competing Interests [TOP]

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Acknowledgments [TOP]

We are thankful for the EASP Summer School, through which the idea of the article was created. Special thanks to Daniel Bar-Tal who helped with the early development and to Kevin Clements for reading and providing input and support to the paper. We would also like to thank Alexa Harrison and NCPACS for their assistance throughout various stages and to the editors and the anonymous reviewers for the helpful comments.

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