What are the wounds of mass violence on various experiential levels and how might recovery occur? Despite the emergence of an international human rights movement in the period after the Holocaust and World War II, mass violence has not ended. The late twentieth-century genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda were followed by early twenty-first-century genocides in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Civil war remains a central part of many of these conflicts, as illustrated by the atrocities perpetrated in Aceh, Colombia, East Timor, Guatemala, Liberia, Kosovo, Nepal, Peru, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Syria, and Uganda. The United States has recently entered zones of mass violence in a post-9/11 world, and with its allies has waged war in Afghanistan and Iraq while confronting terrorism at home. There is the postconflict legacy of such violence: economies and infrastructures destroyed, families and communities fractured, interpersonal mistrust, grieving, trauma, symptoms, unwanted memories, and many other forms of social suffering.
This volume explores lingering aftermaths of mass violence and the reaction to it. What are the legacies of mass violence for individuals and the social worlds in which they live and how do they seek to recover? Former zones of violence often become sites of humanitarian aid, peace-building efforts, and transitional justice, but scholars and practitioners have paid too little attention to the ways in which individuals and cultural groups react to mass violence through microdynamics of memory, social practice, ritual, coping, understanding, symptoms, and healing. Psychological anthropology should have much to say about these issues given its emphasis on taking into account various levels of human ontology such as social experience, collective representations, and sociopolitical process; brain function and psychology; the phenomenology of lived experience; and the nexus of self, memory, and emotion. But psychological anthropology has only just begun to grapple with the legacies of mass violence (see, e.g., Fassin & Pandolfi, 2010; Kirmayer, Lemelson, & Barad, 2007; Kleinman, Das, & Lock, 1997; Robben & Suárez-Orozco, 2000).