“When times collide”: A meta-historical analysis of history and memory in post-war Guatemala.

How do Maya Q’eqchi’ survivors remember Guatemala’s violent past in relation to (inter)national transitional justice discourses and practices?

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Berber Bevernage

Co-supervision: Prof. Dr. Eva Brems

Researcher: Tessa Boeykens

Sponsored by FWO Research Foundation Flanders (2013-2017)

Dealing with a violent past is one of the bigger political issues of our time and all over the world a wide range of ‘transitional justice mechanisms’ is being developed to deal with historical injustice and conflict. Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala was shattered by an internal armed conflict that resulted in the death of 200,000 people, 83% of them being indigenous Maya. The researcher investigates how Maya Q’eqchi’ survivors remember this violent past. The aim is to test a meta-historical conceptual framework empirically through ethnographic fieldwork, by introducing time concepts in transitional justice (TJ).

There is a focus on time concepts and regimes of historicity to investigate different ways of dealing with the conflict and analyze their political implications. How one of the main goals of transitional justice – being truth-seeking and remembrance – is being understood from the perspective of Maya Q’eqchi’ survivors. This includes an analysis of local time experience and the meaning and use of history and memory in relation to (inter)national transitional justice initiatives. The researcher aims at understanding frictions between macro level policies on truth and memory and micro level processes. And claims that a better understanding of historical time and visions of history and memory can improve the local and cultural sensitivity of TJ programs.

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Interpretations of the internal armed conflict play an important role in the legitimization of a present political and social order. Subquestions of this research therefore are about if and how these time concepts are being mobilized by the Q’eqchi’ in processes of identity construction. As such, the researcher will try to find connections between time concepts, political concepts and identity.

This PhD research project elaborates other research questions raised in the doctoral research of Lieselotte Viaene with the Mayan Q’eqchi, “Transitional justice and cultural context“.

You can find a photoreport from recent fieldwork here on Flickr.

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