Suffolk University and Beyond Conflict

Spring 2016

Mondays 530-810

Eisikovits, Phillips, Ankori-Karlinsky

Office Hours TBA

The Past is Never Dead:

Confronting History in Divided Societies


What does a history of violence, repression, and division do to a people and a nation?

Do nations, like individuals, have to come to terms with their demons in order to thrive? Or is it best, in the wake of war, mass atrocity, and repression to let the past remain in the past and look towards the future? Do democracies, established or emerging, bear a unique responsibility to confront their past? Does the legacy of violence and dictatorship strip individuals of agency or capacity to exercise their full potential? What are some of the tools we can use for addressing historical injustices? Do they work? Are they fair? Do these tools create new victims as they acknowledge the old? More importantly, what are the costs of not dealing with the past?

These are some of the questions we will explore together in this course.

We will learn about the meaning of political reconciliation, the role of forgiveness in politics and the debates surrounding the creation of War Crime Tribunals, Truth Commissions and Administrative Purges. But our studies will take us beyond theory. Through a series of meetings with senior policy makers and leaders from around the world we will see how different countries have confronted legacies of abuse and violence. Examples include South Africa’s struggle after Apartheid, Northern Ireland’s attempt to end decades of sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants, Iraq’s failure to create an inclusive multi-ethnic government after the removal of Saddam Hussein and the current debate over the role of the Confederate Battle Flag and race relations in the US.

This class is offered as a unique collaboration between Suffolk University’s Philosophy Department and Beyond Conflict, a Boston-based NGO focused on peace building and understanding the sources of chronic political violence. The Chair of Beyond Conflict, Tim Phillips, will serve as Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the College of Arts and Sciences for the Spring of 2016.

As their final project, students will be required to hand in a policy brief outlining ideas on how to deal (or not to deal) with the historical roots of a contemporary social challenge – namely, racism in America and the struggle to deal with race in one of the oldest cities in the United States. These policy proposals, along with recordings of all meetings and roundtable discussions with guest speakers, and a variety of web resources will be published in a special website on coming to terms with the past.


Weekly Response Papers to be submitted by Saturday at 1PM before each class: 40%

Final project/Policy Brief: 40%

Participation: 20%





Jan. 25th – Meeting 1: The Role of the Past in Politics

Ernest Renan, “What is a Nation”

Tony Judt, Selections from Postwar

WDR 2015: Mind, Society, and Behavior, “Part 1: An Expanded Understanding of Human Behavior.”

Tim Phillips. “The Neuroscience of Conflict,” TEDx Boston. October 2 2015.

Feb. 1st – Meeting 2: Political Reconciliation, Political Forgiveness

Guest Speaker: Michael Ignatieff, Harvard University


Colleen Murphy and Linda Radzik, “Reconciliation” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Nir Eiskovits, “Forget Forgiveness: On The Benefits of Sympathy for Political Reconciliation”

Michael Ignatieff, Digging Up the Dead, The New Yorker.

Feb. 8th – Meeting 3: Working Through Trauma

Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery

Feb. 15th – Meeting 4: Transitional Justice: Tools for Confronting the Past (SNOW DAY) 


Nir Eisikovits, “Transitional Justice” from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Tina Rosenberg, Excerpts from The Haunted Land

Mark Danner, excerpt from New Yorker article on El Mozote massacre/Tina Rosenberg, Michael Ignatieff New Yorker reports on South Africa’s Truth Commission



Feb. 22nd – Meeting 5: Dignity and Humiliation in the life of Nations

Guest Speaker: Donna Hicks


Donna Hicks: Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict

Dominque Moisi.  “The Geopolitics of Emotion.“ Foreign Affairs.

BBC Documentary with Donna Hicks and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Feb. 29th – Meeting 6: Transitional Justice: Tools for Confronting the Past 

Guest Speaker: Judy Barsalou


Nir Eisikovits, “Transitional Justice” from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Tina Rosenberg, Excerpts from The Haunted Land

Mark Danner, excerpt from New Yorker article on El Mozote massacre/Tina Rosenberg, Michael Ignatieff New Yorker reports on South Africa’s Truth Commission


Mar. 7th – Meeting 7: What Neuroscience Teaches Us About Confronting Our Past 

Siegel, D.J. (2001). Memory: An overview with emphasis on the developmental, interpersonal, and neurobiological aspects. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(9), 997-1011.

Daniel Kahneman. The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory. TED talk. 2010

Michael Specter. “Partial Recall.” The New Yorker. May 19, 2014 Issue 


*** March 14th – Spring Break ***


Mar. 21st – Meeting 8: Creating the “Rainbow Nation” – South Africa’s experiment with Truth and Reconciliation


Long Night’s Journey Into Day (Watch via library access)

“Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter” (made available through Blackboard before the class) – Movie and Book.

Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. Reconciliation Barometer, available online. 


Mar. 28th – Meeting 9: Making good on the Good Friday Agreement – Northern Ireland’s Struggle to end Sectarian Warfare


Joshua Hammer, “In Northern Ireland, Getting Past the Troubles”, Smithsonian Magazine, March 2009,

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. “Dealing with Northern Ireland’s Past: Towards a Transitional Justice Approach.” 31 July 2013 (pdf).

The Proposed Agreement on Dealing with the Past, unsuccessfully brokered by Richard Haass. (Dec. 31 2013)

Kevin Cullen, article about Gerry Adams and call for Truth Commission. Boston Globe. October.

David Mitchell, “Good Friday and the wait for a new politics in Northern Ireland”, OpenDemocracy, 15 April 2015

Tim Phillips, “Finding Peace in Northern Ireland.” WBUR Cognoscenti. Jan. 16th 2014.

Tim Phillips and Donna Hicks. “The Dignity of Dealing with the Past.” GlobalPost.


Apr. 4th – Meeting 10:

Confronting our Past at Home 


Ta-Nehisi Coates. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic Monthly.

House Resolution 40 – 113th Congress (2013-2014).

Margaret Burnham and Margaret Russell. “The Cold Cases of the Jim Crow South.” The New York Times.

NPR. “Remembering Jim Crow.”


Apr. 11th – Meeting 11: The History of Race in Boston 


Lukas, J. Anthony, “Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families.” Vintage Books. 1986.

Stockman, Farah. Selection of Articles.

TED Talk by Rev. Jeffery Brown.


*** April 18th – Patriot’s Day *** 


Apr. 25th – Meeting 12: Cuba


Nick Miroff and Karen DeYoung, “After US reconciliation, coming together of Cubans themselves could take time”, The Guardian, 14 April 2015

Father Robert Schreiter, “A Roadmap to the Reconciliation Process”, Cuba Study Group & Miami Dade College, Sep 14th, 2012

Roberto Goizueta, “Opportunities for Reconciliation between Cuba and the Diaspora”, Cuba Study Group and Miami Dade College, Sep 14th, 2012

Juan Antonio Blanco, “Reconciliation and its actors”, Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University

Peter Kornbluh and William LeoGrande. “Spies, Artificial Insemination and the Pope: How Cuba came in from the cold

May 2nd – Meeting 13: Colombia’s Peace Process and Dealing with the Past


Virginia Bouvier’s article selection from USIP website and blog

International Crisis Group, “Colombia Peace Process: Lurching Backward”

International Crisis Group, “Transitional Justice and Colombia’s Peace Process”

*** May 9th – Final Exams Week ***