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Peace and Social Reconstruction: A Study of the Paradoxal Dynamic between Individual and Collective Bereavement

Annual Call for Projects 2001


The capacity of the human mind to accommodate the process of bereavement seems to be a major force in human beings. The process of collective bereavement develops much more slowly than individual bereavement as the paralysing or "gelling" of the process, particularly in situations of survival, has the tendency to inhibit the unfolding of the individual bereavement process, thereby also paralysing social reconstruction. This last phenomenon has important consequences for the relationship between individual and collective memory, on one hand, and history and culture on the other, either for the cohesion of narrative individual and collective identities or for the trans-generational transmission, which constitutes these identities. It also draws attention to the major problem of the transition from a situation of war to one of peace, as well as the immediate risk of the birth of new major conflicts if collective bereavement is not dealt with appropriately.

An essential question is raised from the aforementioned: how could the individual bereavement process be the seed for collective bereavement rather than the latter inhibiting the former?

The answer to this question will enable international actors to develop projects in post-conflict contexts, which in the long run strengthen the foundations of peace and enable the integration of formerly displaced persons who have returned to their place of origin.


a) develop and summarize the theoretical reflections raised by the authors about the paradoxical dynamic between individual and collective bereavement, particularly within displaced populations in post-conflict periods;

b) develop appropriate and practical methods to facilitate collective bereavement, thus stimulating social reconstruction and preventing further conflicts;

c) apply this knowledge in the training programs of organisations in Bosnia-Herzegovina with the help of international organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, that include expatriate and local collaboration;

d) develop research strategies which will enable the evaluation of these methods and programs;

e) propose guidelines for international organisations, both governmental and non-governmental;

f) integrate this knowledge in training activities undertaken in Switzerland and elsewhere.

This project implies collaboration between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Switzerland. The choice of Bosnia is based on the fact that individual and collective bereavement is apparent on a wide-scale among the large number of displaced persons in Switzerland and among persons who have returned to Bosnia after having lived for several years in Switzerland. Currently, Bosnia-Herzegovina finds itself in a period of reconstruction and transition from war to peace. Thanks to long-term partnerships with several local organisations, the project team benefits from considerable knowledge about this region.

The grant provided by the GIAN for this project totals SFr 65,000

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Project Team

Dr. Jean-Claude Métraux , Coordinator, Association Belongings .

Ms Cimeta Hatibovic , Principal Member, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Tuzla, Bosnia .

Ms Anica Kos , Principal Member, Together Foundation, Slovenia .

Mr Hamdija Kujundzic , Principal Member, Association Osmijeh (Bosnia) .

Prof. Juan Manzano , Principal Member, Faculty of Medicine , University of Geneva (Unige) .

Research Output

Individual and Collective Bereavement
(available in French only)
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Theories and Techniques for the Development of Collective Mournings
(available in English and French)
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