Competing Collective Narratives in Intergroup Rapprochement: A Transgenerational Perspective


  • Margareta Jelić
  • Dinka Čorkalo Biruški
  • Dean Ajduković


In the context of an ethnically divided community, we explored the role of competing group narratives for intergroup rapprochement after violent conflict. In Study 1, data from a community survey conducted in Vukovar, Croatia, among 198 Croats, the local majority, and 119 Serbs, the local minority, were analysed to gain perspective on different narratives about the recent war and effects they may have on intergroup relations. In Study 2, focus groups with Croat and Serb children provided data to explore how these narratives were transmitted and transformed in living experience within the second generation. The quantitative results confirm the existence of opposing narratives of war among local Croats and Serbs. Multiple regression analyses show that, after controlling for exposure to war event and their personal impact, different factors predict rapprochement within the two groups. In the minority status group, that displayed higher overall levels of readiness for rapprochement, perceived ingroup victimization and outgroup stereotypes appeared more predictive than the outgroup affect. In contrast, within the majority group, variations in readiness for intergroup rapprochement were primarily predicted by outgroup affect, followed by perceived ingroup victimization. The qualitative inquiry complemented the findings from the survey. Despite the overwhelming dominant narrative, some alternative positions exist, but not consistent enough to be declared publicly. Perception of one’s own group as the primary victim of the war influences not only interpretations of the past, but also shapes identity, everyday life and future expectations. Mechanisms of perpetuating opposed narratives, as well as possible interventions, are discussed.