Global Social Sciences Conference – Political Reconciliation in Comparative Perspective
5-6 June 2014
1. Dr. Sandrine Lefranc, University of Paris West
Room WLB109, Dr. Wu Yee Sun Lecture Theatre, 1/F, Lam Woo International Conference Centre, Shaw Campus, Hong Kong Baptist University
The conference is jointly organized by the EUAP and the Department of Government and International Studies, HKBU, and sponsored by the Faculty of Social Sciences, HKBU, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC)
All speakers posing in front of the conference venue
The EUAP co-organized in early June a conference on “political reconciliation in comparative perspective” at HKBU with the Department of Government and International Studies (GIS), Faculty of Social Science, HKBU. Out of the thirteen academic papers presented, seven were on European reconciliation experiences or by reconciliation scholars coming from European universities. Furthermore, two of the six panels of the two-day conference were dedicated to “European perspectives – old wounds and new fissures”, dealing with issues ranging from post-colonial, post-Second World War to post-communist reconciliation attempts and processes among Poland, Germany, Russia, France and Algeria. The conference was inaugurated by Prof. Adrian J. Bailey, Dean of Faculty of Social Science, HKBU and Prof. Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Director-General of EUAP Hong Kong and Head of Department of GIS.
In her paper on “Central European memory cultures”, Annika Frieberg of San Diego State University argued that a certain “selective remembrance and forgetting” has been at work in Polish-German reconciliation – a point shared also by Mathias Delori of the University of Bordeaux, who presented a paper on the Franco-German Elysée Treaty of 1963, highlighting that German and French youths were not encouraged to remember but to forget the difficult history between the two countries. Nevertheless, Frieberg conceded that not all selective remembrance and forgetting strategies are the same, for GermanVergangenheitsbewältigung (“coming to terms with the past”) is precisely characterized by that selection of the more difficult truth to remember (say, for example, remembering one’s own guilt instead of the guilt of the others).
from left: Prof. Hess (Chair), Dr. Frieberg, Dr. Sliwinski
The paper by Stanislaw Bielen of the University of Warsaw (presented by Krzysztof Sliwinski of HKBU as co-author) compared Polish-German and Polish-Russian reconciliation and argued that whereas the former is by and large mission accomplished – thanks in part to the initiatives of the Catholic Church in Poland and in Germany, the latter has barely started due to the yet-to-be-surmounted difficulties on both sides, which Bielen enumerated in some detail in his paper.
Divisive and destructive as the Nazi and the Soviet pasts remain, the paper on “conflict, cooperation and conciliation” between France and Algeria by Phillip Naylor of Marquette University showed that the colonial past is also another arena in which political reconciliation proves elusive. The rich historical details of the vicissitudes of conciliation provided in the paper presented reconciliation scholars (esp. those working chiefly with international relations theories and concepts) a real challenge to find a fitting theoretical “model” as explanation.
from left: Dr. Veg (Chair), Dr. Chung, Prof. Ishida
On top of these, the German “model” of coming to terms with the past served as a comparative framework for Ishida Yuji of the University of Tokyo and Martin Chung of EUAP Hong Kong to critically examine Japanese and Chinese attempts and intellectual resources to deal with their shared historical trauma respectively. Whereas the presentation by Sandrine Lefranc of the University of Paris West took issue with the concept of “transitional justice” as a tool of political reconciliation.
Over 100 academics, students and diplomats in the city attended the conference. The event was well attended and covered by the media. An edited volume of selected conference papers is now being prepared by Yang Daqing of George Washington University, Annika Frieberg of San Diego State University and Martin Chung of EUAP as co-editors.