The Reconciling Societal Divisions and Memories (RSDM) lab works to empower conflict resolution and reconciliation practitioners with evidence-based tools and approaches for reconciling societal divisions.
Societies around the world are suffering from the devastating consequences of intergroup divisions and polarization, including reduced social cohesion, dysfunctional politics and governance, and violence.
Societal divisions are often fueled by divergent narratives and collective memories about the past that different groups see as central to their identities. These contested interpretations about the past often entrench intergroup boundaries, foster fear and perceptions of threat between groups, and can promote norms of antagonism, discrimination, and violence.
To help bridge societal divisions and support progress toward reconciliation, the RSDM lab draws on cutting edge theory and evidence to develop tools for addressing the dynamics of identity-based conflicts and contested interpretations of the past.
The RSDM lab defines reconciliation as a transformative process that involves improvements in relationships between conflicting groups and changes to the social identities of each group, including their values, norms, and behaviors, to promote a peaceful and just society.
More specifically, we see reconciliation as the transformation of conflicting intergroup relations to reduce violence and promote peaceful, equal, and constructive interactions. Reconciliation requires intragroup changes on all sides of the conflict, including to values, norms, and attitudes about engagement with outgroups and to unconstructive, hostile, or violent ideologies rooted in radicalized narratives about the past. It also requires changes in intergroup relations, including the alteration or removal of social boundaries, reduction in perceptions of outgroup threat, and shifts in the intergroup axiological balance and collective generality. This process may involve various types of activities and mechanisms, such as trust building, forgiveness, trauma healing, restoration of justice, and cooperation.
RSDM Lab Hypothesis of Change
RSDM Lab Agenda
The RSDM lab seeks to advance evidence-based practice primarily in the five thematic areas identified in the image below. The questions outlined in this agenda provide a basis for the development of theories of change and other resources for reconciliation practitioners.
On Theories of Change
Theories of change provide a useful tool for operationalizing scholarly theory in practice. Too often, however, theories of change in conflict resolution and reconciliation consist of simple “if-then” statements that are not rooted in theory or evidence and do not adequately account for contextual assumptions and risks. The RSDM lab seeks to fill this gap by developing narrative theories of change, rooted in rigorous scholarship and evidence, that provide a basis for the design of innovative and effective approaches for reconciling societal divisions and contested histories.
The lab produces practical tools, including theories of change and illustrative project hypotheses and interventions, for reconciling societal divisions, addressing antagonistic modes of remembering and dealing with contested historical narratives. New products developed through the lab will be posted on this page.
The RSDM lab participants convene on a regular basis for working sessions to brainstorm innovative approaches to reconciliation and develop tools for practitioners. The lab also hosts public events with expert practitioners working on reconciliation. Information about public events will be posted on this page.
Participating Students and Faculty
George Mason University Students
George Mason University Faculty
Dr. Steven Barnes
Dr. Charles Chavis
Dr. Marc Gopin
Dr. Mark Helmsing
Dr. Karina Korostelina
Dr. Alison Landsberg
Dr. Daniel Rothbart
Dr. Mara Schoeny
Dr. Peter Stearns
Dr. Mills Kelly
Dr. Tamra d’Estree, University of Denver
Dr. Hope Harrison, George Washington University
Dr. Christine R Henry, Mary Washington University
Dr. Maria Repoussé, Greece.
Dr. Daqing Yang, George Washington University
The RSDM collaborates with centers and labs at the Carter School and externally that have expertise on reconciliation. Partners include:
Jena Center for Reconciliation Studies, Jena. Germany.
The Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, Braunschweig, Germany
Center for Reconciliation Studies, Waseda University, Japan.