This special section of Focaal explores processes of social recovery and peace-building in the aftermath of radical violence and political upheaval. The articles draw on detailed ethnographic case studies from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that was shattered by war and ethnic cleansing in the 1990s, and raise issues of relevance to other post-conflict situations. Challenging “reconciliation” as a moral discourse with universalist claims, the articles highlight the dynamics of its localization in different contexts of intervention in post-war society. The four contributions explore different facets of this dynamic as it is played out in the key areas of justice, the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and NGO peace-building activities. They illuminate what happens when the global paradigm of reconciliation encounters and filters through meanings and motivations of actors in local contexts. They also note that everyday interactions between former adversaries take place not as a moral engagement with reconciliation but as part of rebuilding a sense of normality. The findings point to the need to critically investigate the conditions under which such encounters may empower or prohibit the rebuilding of social relations and trust in post-war societies.
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