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Elena Esposito (University of Lausanne) (webinar)

24 February 2021 @ 12:00 - 13:15


  • Past event


24 February 2021
12:00 - 13:15
Event Category:
Academic Events


“Reconciliation Narratives: “The Birth of a Nation” after the US Civil War”

Joint with: Tiziano Rotesi, Alessandro Saia, Mathias Thoenig.

Abstract: Civil conflicts tend to recur and exiting the logic of violence is a precondition for prosperity. Yet, in spite of their high policy relevance, our understanding of the processes that pave the way to reconciliation is still limited.  Of particular importance in the aftermath of a civil war are the emergence and diffusion of narratives about the causes and consequences of the conflict. Examples of such narratives abound. Denial narratives legitimize violence (e.g. Armenian genocide for Turkey); hatred narratives tend to transform former victims into perpetrators of future violence (e.g. Tamil in Sri Lanka; Hutu in Rwanda); threat narratives, by emphasizing the existence of a common enemy – either external or internal – tend to foster cooperation between former enemies (Israel for Lebanon; Bosnia Herzegovina for Serbia and Croatia; Muslims for Myanmar). This paper analyses the economic and political impact of reconciliation narratives by looking at the case of the United States in the aftermath of the US civil war, when it gradually emerged a narrative where none of the two sides (Northerners and Southerners) had been truly wrong and a common threat was emerging with the empowerment of black people. A major flag bearer of this reconciliation narrative has been the movie “The Birth of a Nation” (1915), an epic about the American Civil War and the Reconstruction. Exploring exogenous variation in the spatial patterns of diffusion of the movie throughout the US, we study how this reconciliation narrative transformed political platforms and attitudes and how it reshuffled violence within the American society.