Political reconciliation – that is, reconciliation between communities, whether it be inter- or intra-national – is fast becoming an academic discipline in itself. From across the Atlantic, research centres and academic programmes are being established to focus on this interdisciplinary subject that cuts across the different branches of social science and the humanities. This reflects the growing awareness of the need for political reconciliation, which can take place in the post-Second World War, post-colonial, or domestic political contexts of historical trauma. As a matter of fact, when national histories are concerned, the burden of past atrocities is felt by many who face the descendants of their former enemies, victims or perpetrators on a daily basis in today’s globalized world. Parallel examples of injured collective relationships are often juxtaposed to question the causes of contrasting results of reconciliation attempts.

The Global Social Sciences Conference 2014 organized by the Department of Government and International Studies in collaboration with the European Union Academic Programme Hong Kong will gather a group of renowned experts in this fast-growing field of reconciliation studies to discuss the theory and practice of political reconciliation in comparative perspective. Participants coming from or researching on Europe, North America, Africa, Oceania and East Asia are invited to explore the roles of institutions, civil initiatives, history-writing, national identity, collective memory and international law in the process of political reconciliation. Speakers will compare not only regional models, successes and failures but also probe the different definitions and conceptual frameworks of reconciliation. After all, the very words of “reconciliation” in different languages can point to very different conceptions of its essence: whereas “to meet (again)” is at times emphasized (conciliación/réconciliation), the Chinese term of héjiě 和解 conjures up peace/harmony and understanding/unraveling; “atonement”, on the other hand, is stressed by the German words for reconciliation Versöhnung/Aussöhnung, which are etymologically rooted in sühnen (to atone). The Conference is thus a platform for academic exchange as well as regional dialogue.