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The Past Can't Heal Us
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Book description

In this innovative study, Lea David critically investigates the relationship between human rights and memory, suggesting that, instead of understanding human rights in a normative fashion, human rights should be treated as an ideology. Conceptualizing human rights as an ideology gives us useful theoretical and methodological tools to recognize the real impact human rights has on the ground. David traces the rise of the global phenomenon that is the human rights memorialization agenda, termed 'Moral Remembrance', and explores what happens once this agenda becomes implemented. Based on evidence from the Western Balkans and Israel/Palestine, she argues that the human rights memorialization agenda does not lead to a better appreciation of human rights but, contrary to what would be expected, it merely serves to strengthen national sentiments, divisions and animosities along ethnic lines, and leads to the new forms of societal inequalities that are closely connected to different forms of corruptions.


‘Learning from history is an obvious step for post-conflict societies. Yet, enforcing remembrance through a standard trope of techniques and scripted commemorations also presents its own challenges. Lea David walks us through the process of how apparent reconciliation actually might exacerbate conflict and tensions. This is a wonderful book that should be read not just by governments and scholars, but by all those who seek to remember and remedy past wrongs.'

Miguel Centeno - Princeton University

‘The Past Can't Heal Us presents a path breaking analysis of the limits of the global standardization of memorialization. The novel comparative analysis discloses ever-expanding fissures in foundational paradigms in Human Rights discourse and practice while grounding fascinating re-conceptualizations of ideology and micro-solidarity. David's provocatively critical and courageous voice permeates every illuminating chapter. A must read for scholars, students and laypersons alike.'

Carol Kidron - University of Haifa

‘Human rights are often seen as a panacea capable of curbing political extremism and social inequalities. In this wonderful and highly original book, Lea David shows convincingly that enforcing human rights policies in a world dominated by the nation-state model of social organisation is likely to produce the opposite effect: prescribed moral remembrance regularly generates more group animosity. This is an excellent, thoughtful and brave contribution that combines superb analytical skills with the comprehensive and meticulous empirical research.'

Siniša Malešević - University College Dublin

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  • 1 - Introduction
    pp 1-20


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