The Culture of Reconstruction: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Aftermath of Crisis

25 June 2008 - 27 June 2008

New Hall and St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge


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This 2.5-day conference was convened from 25-27 June 2008 under the title The Culture of Reconstruction: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Aftermath of Crisis.

The conference was inaugurated by Lord Ashdown who gave a lecture entitled After Iraq - shall we ever intervene again? on the evening of Wednesday, 25th of June.

The conference was interdisciplinary in scope and designed to be 'solution oriented'. It brought together researchers, policy makers and professionals working on and in post-conflict and post-crisis scenarios, in order to exchange perspectives and experiences. Panels were organised in such a way as to encourage discussion across disciplines and methodologies. They were complemented by the presentation of case studies, round tables, and the screening of creative media work from the field.

In this manner, the conference aimed to address the complexity and potential complementarities of theories, methods and case studies in post-crisis reconstruction work, in a stimulating, interdisciplinary and constructive format.

Topics under discussion included:
•    accountability and stakeholders;
•    the politics of space and security;
•    identity, religion and heritage;
•    mourning and memorialisation;
•    ownership and capacity building;
•    governing affect: truth, guilt and legitimacy
•    media

Some indicative questions that the conference addressed were:
•    How are new cartographies of power etched into a devastated landscape, and what implications do they have for security, inclusion and exclusion?
•    Who are the stakeholders intervening in post-conflict situations, how do their objectives conflict or complement each other, and how can, or should, they be held accountable?
•    How do mourning processes contribute to the closure, or the continuance of conflict, and what role do burials and bodies play in this respect? By what means can mourning be 'translated' into a memorial and what implications does this have for reconciliation, in the short-, medium-, and long-term?
•    How do timing, perceptions of temporality, and pivotal moments affect reconstruction practice? How do these factors influence notions of the 'post' in post-crisis?
•    How are identities distorted by crisis and what implications does this have for reconstruction?
•    What is the religion that we are dealing with in post-conflict situations? Are we assuming a particular vision of religion?
•    How is the nation reinvented in the aftermath of conflict and what are the implications for the rewriting of history, preservation of heritage, exclusionary policies?

The conference also included a creative element, screening a number of documentaries and featuring a visual arts exhibition that directly addressed post-conflict and post-crisis scenarios.


Background The conference was organised by the Cambridge University Post-Conflict and Post-Crisis Group. Founded in 2005, the group is composed of graduate students, research and teaching staff from departments as varied as engineering, business, medicine, architecture, economics, development studies, anthropology, history, modern languages, archaeology, geography, law and political science. It has been awarded a two-year grant (2007-2009) by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CRASSH) for further research and activities.

Post-Conflict and Post-Crisis Research Colloquium

The Group was founded to promote and put into practice interdisciplinary research and action in order to correspond to the complexity of post-crisis scenarios. Societies emerging from a natural disaster, armed conflict or acute social and economic crisis share similar characteristics: insecurity, uncertainty, violence, increase in poverty, displacement of people, loss of life, organized crime, trauma, and physical destruction. They also share needs: re-establishing rule of law, stabilizing the economy, rebuilding, conflict mitigation and prevention, integrate traumatic events, inscribing and negotiating memories, strengthening civil society, reconciliation, nation building and identity, etc. Interdisciplinary perspectives on the aftermath of crisis are therefore the core concern, and key strength, of this research and discussion group.




New Hall College, University of Cambridge
Centre of Latin American Studies 
Centre of African Studies
Programme on Religion and Ethics in War and Peace-Making at the Von Hügel Institute



Wednesday, 25 June

Venue: Buckingham House Lecture Theatre, New Hall (Huntingdon Rd.)

19.00 - 19.30 

19.30 - 21.00

Registration (of the 26-27 conference delegates) 

Welcome by Professor Mary Jacobus, Director of CRASSH

After Iraq - shall we ever intervene again?
Inaugural lecture and discussion

Discussion chaired by Julie Smith, Deputy Director of the Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge


Thursday, 26 June

Venue: Octagon Theatre, St. Chad’s site, St. Catherine’s College (Grange Rd.) 

8.45 - 9.15


9.15 - 9.30


9.30 - 11.00

Stakeholders and the Impact of Intervention
Moderator: MATEJA PETER, University of Cambridge
Discussant: PIETER VAN HOUTEN, University of Cambridge

MAJA NENADOVIC, European Studies Department, University of Amsterdam
MARTIN TISNE, TIRI, Network for Integrity in Reconstruction (NIR)
Integrity after war: Why reconstruction assistance fails to deliver to expectations?

BRIONY JONES,  University of Manchester
The Relational Context of Citizenship in Brcko, Bosnia-Herzegovina

11.00 - 11.20

Coffee Break

11.20 - 13.00

The Politics of Reconciliation
Moderator: ELEANOR O’GORMAN, Freelance Researcher and Consultant

SEIDU ALIDU, Leeds Metropolitan University
The Ghana National Reconciliation Commission: Reconciliation or cultural reconstruction?

CHELSEA PAYNE, University of Oxford
Commission, State, International Community, and Liberia’s transitional justice process

SOFIA T. SHWAYRI, University of Oxford
The July 2006 Israel-Hizballah War: The Rupture between War and Postwar Planning

13.00 - 14.00

Lunch Break

14.00 - 15.30

Post-conflict spaces: challenging the boundaries of international relations    
Moderator: JOHN HEATHERSHAW, University of Exeter
FLORIAN P. KÜHN, Helmut-Schmidt-University, Hamburg
Aid, opium, and the state of rents in Afghanistan: competition, cooperation, or cohabitation?              

ALEX VEIT, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg                
Figuration of Uncertainty: Armed Groups and ‘Humanitarian’ Military Intervention in Ituri (DRCongo)          

DARIA ISACHENKO, Humboldt University – Berlin
Symbolic scramble for statehood: the cases of Northern Cyprus and Transdniestria



Coffee Break 

16.00 - 17.30

Mourning and Memorialisation        
Moderator: PAOLA FILIPPUCCI, University of Cambridge          
Discussant:  DUNCAN BELL, University of Cambridge
KARIN FIERKE, International Relations, University of St. Andrews
HEONIK KWON, Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh      
New ancestral shrines after the cold war          

Public Grieving after the March 11 Bombings in Madrid: Spontaneous Shrines as Performance


Wine reception (CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane)

20.30 - 21.30

Documentary Film Evening Venue: (CRASSH)

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Moderator: CHANDRA MORRISON, University of Cambridge
Discussant: LIZ MERMIN, documentary maker and producer

From North to South: Sudan's displaced head home
Aftershock: Rebuilding after the Asian earthquake
Losing Hope - Women in Afghanistan 


Friday, 27 June

Venue: Octagon Theatre, St. Chad’s site, St. Catherine’s College (Grange Road) 

9.00 - 10.45

Interpreting Crisis in  the Media and the Arts
Moderator: ANNA DIMITRÍJEVICS, University of Cambridge
Discussant: ANDY WHITEHEAD, Director of BBC World Service Trust India

Discussant: SUZANNE FISHER, Radio projects from Rwanda

JAMES THOMPSON, University of Manchester, Founder “In Place of War”
BROOKE LYNN MCGOWAN, University of Cambridge
SIOBHAN CAMPBELL, Poet and Senior Lecturer at Kingston University

10.45 - 11.15

Coffee Break

11.15 - 13.00

Conflict in Cities and the Contested State
Moderator: LISA SMIRL, University of Cambridge
Discussant: NOAM LESHEM, London Consortium

MAXIMILIAN GWIAZDA, University of Cambridge
Digging up neo-biblical narratives: Archaeology and the proliferation   

MILENA KOMAROVA, Department of Sociology, Queens University Belfast
Shared Space in ‘Post-Conflict’ Belfast and the Limits of ‘A Shared Future’

CRAIG LARKIN, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter
Reconstructing and Deconstructing Beirut: Space, Memory and Lebanese Youth

13.00 - 14.00

Lunch Break

14.00 - 15.45

The Politics of Reconstruction: Identity, Religion and Cultural Heritage
Moderator: DACIA VIEJO ROSE, University of Cambridge
Discussant: JOE L. NASR, Independent researcher and lecturer

TIM WINTER , University of Sydney                        
Post-Conflict heritage: expanding the frontiers of ‘restoration’          

KRISJON OLSON, University of California-Berkeley
After the Peace: The New Ethics of Humanitarianism in Post-War Guatemala          

LIORA DANAN, Yale University        
U.S. Government Engagement with Religion in Conflict-Prone Settings    

15.45 - 16.30

Presentations from IGOs & NGOs
MARIE LOUIS STIG SØRENSEN, CRIC, University of Cambridge
SILJA HALLE, Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB), UNEP
LEILA DE BRUYNE, Flying Kites – Kenya

16.30 - 17.00

Coffee Break

17.00 - 18.00

Round Table of Experts and Rapporteurs
The culture of reconstruction and the reconstruction of culture: avenues for future work and collaborations 

ELEANOR O’GORMAN, Freelance Researcher and Consultant, formerly with UNDP

YUDHISHTHIR RAJ ISAR Jean Monnet Professor at The American University of Paris, Maître de Conférences at Sciences Po and President of Culture Action Europe

GHANIM WAHIDA, Archaeologist and university lecturer with over 30 years experience      working in Iraq, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait


Thanks and Closure   



Venue: Octagon Theatre, St. Chad’s site, St. Catherine’s College (Grange Road) 

Curator: CHANDRA MORRISON, University of Cambridge
 JUAN CARLOS ORRANTIA, Yale University         

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