Call for Presentations

Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Probing the Boundaries

The Forgiveness Project: 8th Global Meeting

Sunday 10th May – Tuesday 12th May 2015
Dubrovnik, Croatia


Call for Presentations:
Forgiveness and reconciliation are two separate, yet intertwined areas of study, analysis, teaching and practice. Each can be developed alone, but each is more strongly engaged when applied toward the other. Each is both a personal, and yet also a social, process of reflection and action.

They have been, or can be, engaged on every level of human experience. At the trans-national level, there are conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, Indians and Pakistanis, in southern Africa or across the Balkans present ongoing challenges to those who seek to make peace. Within nations, ongoing struggles between settlers and Aboriginal peoples (see Australia, Canada, the United States, for example), or between racial/ethnic and/or religious groups (see, for example, northern Ireland, South Africa, Rwanda, Timor L’Este). All provide challenges that may well be reconciled in the spirit of mutual forgiveness. And, of course, interpersonal relations are often fraught with the need for forgiveness and, if possible, reconciliation in order to move forward.

And yet, questions remain. Can forgiveness be granted to those who have committed terrorist acts? By whom? Upon whose authority? Can there be reconciliation following mass murder? Is forgiveness possible? As defined by whom? For whose benefit? Can true reconciliation be accomplished? On whose terms?

Mahatma Gandhi said that ‘the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.’ It is usually held that Forgiveness is a process (or the result of a process) that involves a change in emotion and attitude regarding an offender. Some scholars view this as an intentional and voluntary process, driven by a deliberate decision to forgive. The process results in decreased motivation to retaliate or maintain estrangement from an offender despite his or her actions, and requires a deliberate — or as Gandhi put it, ‘strong’ — letting go of negative emotions toward the offender. Theorists differ in the extent to which they believe forgiveness also implies replacing negative emotions with positive attitudes including benevolence and compassion.

Reconciliation refers to the restoration of fractured relationships by overcoming grief, pain and anger. This, too, is an attribute of the strong. It is, as Karen Broenus has written “a societal process that involves mutual acknowledgment of past suffering and the changing of destructive attitudes and behaviour into constructive relationships toward sustainable peace.” The path toward reconciliation is a lifelong journey going in two directions: inward, towards discovering and forgiving one’s self, and outwards, toward recognizing and, hopefully, forgiving others. It is both an intrapersonal and an interpersonal exercise, each advancing the more deeply a person discovers the reconciliation possible both within and without.

Forgiveness may be necessarily a key to post-traumatic reconciliation: between friends, family members, spouses, neighbors, races, cultures, nations, etc. More complete reconciliation means that we engage co-participants honestly and respectfully in the construction of a newer world through meaningful and faithful relationships.

This interdisciplinary conference project seeks to investigate and explore the nature, significance, and practices of forgiveness, and where applicable, related ideas of reconciliation. Forgiveness and/or reconciliation raise a variety of questions that touch on a vast array of academic disciplines — peace and conflict resolution, social work, anthropology, psychoanalysis, literature, history, philosophy, psychology, political economy, etc. In cases of significant transgressions, social tensions, and even international conflicts there are questions of what counts as forgiveness and how it moves from the level of individual to community, national and/or international relationships. This conference will examine full range of this complexity. To encourage innovative trans-disciplinary dialogues, we welcome papers from all disciplines, professions, and vocations. We also invite submissions from people involved in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who have been involved with truth and reconciliation initiatives, forgiveness and peace, hostage situations and other instances of trauma and abuse. We also seek participation from people representing civil service/governmental agencies, legal professionals and people involved with diplomacy.

Proposals, presentations, papers, performances, reports and workshops are invited on issues on or broadly related to any of the following themes:

  • Theories of forgiveness/reconciliation and the inter-relationship among those concepts: contemporary, historical and cross-cultural analyses
  • Working conflict resolution models for issues in the workplace, family counselling contexts, bullying, geopolitical disputes, law enforcement and criminal courts (such as Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programmes, occupational therapy, etc.)
  • Rituals of forgiving and receiving forgiveness/reconciling across time and cultures
  • Physiological and scientific research around cognitive processes that may facilitate/negate the impulse to forgive

Or any of the following:

1) Questions of Definition
– What is forgiveness? What is reconciliation?
– Are all definitions of forgiveness/reconciliation culturally relative? When or – how is it possible to speak of them in universal terms?
– Who can grant forgiveness? Can there be meaningful third party forgiveness?
– Who benefits from forgiveness and how?
– Can forgiveness be required of someone? Can it ever be wrong to offer forgiveness?
– Can we forgive an ongoing evil?

2) Psychological Perspectives
– The emotional effect of victimization and the role forgiveness can play in either exacerbating or mitigating such feelings
– The nature of self-forgiveness
– Barriers to people’s ability to forgive transgressors
– How a willingness (or unwillingness) to forgive can be a measure of self-worth or self-respect
– What happens after the forgiveness is granted?

3) Legal and Political Perspectives
Forgiveness for past crimes of individuals — rehabilitation, second chances, and pardons
– How forgiveness can play a role in criminal legal proceedings
– Is there is Marxist notion of Forgiveness? Of Reconciliation?
– Forgiveness as a part of social reconstruction following civil wars or systematic social injustices
– How forgiveness can be required or granted in relationships between nations
– Seeking forgiveness on behalf of others: righting historic wrongs
-Difficulties connected with political forgiveness: collectiveness, performative meaning of forgiveness declarations, etc.

4) Social, Cultural and Literary Perspectives
– The roles forgiveness plays in different cultures
– Differences in perceptions of the importance of forgiveness and/or reconciliation in different societies
– Forgiveness ceremonies as important cultural practices
– How questions of forgiveness and/or reconciliation are used in literature
– Forgiveness in cinema, film, TV, radio and theatre
– The role of the arts as catalyst or hindrance for actual cases of forgiveness and/or reconciliation
– Forgiveness and/or reconciliation and media

5) Religion and Forgiveness
– Distinctions between secular and religious notions of forgiveness
– The roles of forgiveness and/or reconciliation in religious practices
– How religious beliefs can promote or hinder forgiveness
– Rituals of forgiveness and their importance

6) Issues, Connections and Relations 
– The relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation
– The relationship between forgiveness and compassion, mercy or pity
– The relationship between forgiveness, reconciliation and restitution
– The relationship between forgiveness and personal growth

The Steering Group welcomes the submission of proposals for short workshops, practitioner-based activities, best practice showcases, how-to sessions, live demonstrations, performances, and pre-formed panels. We particularly welcome short film screenings; photographic essays; installations; interactive talks and alternative presentation styles that encourage engagement.

What to Send:
300 word proposals should be submitted by Friday 30th January 2015. All submissions are at least double blind peer reviewed. Proposals should be submitted simultaneously to the Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: FOR8 Proposal Submission.

All abstracts will be at least double blind peer reviewed. Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Joint Organising Chairs:

John Hochheimer: hoch@siu.edu
Rob Fisher
: for8@inter-disciplinary.net

The conference is part of the Probing the Boundaries programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All proposals accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook.  Selected proposals may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.

Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.