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Transforming Societies after Political Violence

Truth, Reconciliation, and Mental Health

by Brandon Hamber, Ph.D.


Transforming Societies after Political Violence offers a template for those tasked with providing truth, justice, reconciliation, and healing. This interdisciplinary study identifies complex relationships between recovery from political violence and the psychological processes that accompany widespread social change, showing how these can be integrated to strengthen both individual and society. Author Brandon Hamber draws on his extensive experience in South Africa and comparative examples from elsewhere to examine the centrality of mental health issues in transitional justice, and the social, cultural, and identity issues involved in meeting the needs of victims. In discussing reparations (what the author terms "repairing the irreparable"), the power of ambivalence, and especially concepts of closure, he eloquently sets out professionals’ roles in helping survivors move beyond the toxic past without covering it up or becoming mired in it.


ISBN: 978-0-387-89426-3, Springer 2009


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Endorsements of Transforming Societies after Political Violence by Brandon Hamber

How to victims heal?  We should not be too quick to presume.  Those seeking truth and justice often prioritize victims’ interests – but without always fully understanding what those interests and needs are, or how different victims may recover in very different ways.  Based on fifteen years of working with and listening to victims and survivors, Brandon Hamber helps us better understand the mental health backdrop to atrocity and recovery.  With plentiful, poignant stories, and clear policy recommendations, this book should help shape – and greatly improve – future endeavors to confront unimaginable memories and pain (Priscilla Hayner, International Centre for Transitional Justice and author of Unspeakable Truths: confronting state terror and atrocity)

Brandon Hamber nails this tricky subject with humility, insight, learned insight, and golden recommendations..... if you are interested in how humans try to grapple with the consequences of man’s brutality to man, and ultimately the truth, read it! (Thulani Grenville-Grey, former South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Mental Health Specialist)

Brandon Hamber's experience in multiple sites of transitional justice work, and his rare ability to bridge the academic and theoretical with the practical and logistical, ensures this publication is an extremely valuable contribution and a must read to those working in this fast evolving field (Piers Pigou, former South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Investigator and Director of the South African History Archive).

Brandon Hamber has written a challenging and good interdisciplinary book, which will not only be helpful to those dealing with mental health issues during transitions from conflict, but also to lawyers and those concerned with conflict resolution more generally (Christine Bell, Director, Institute of Transitonal Justice, University of Ulster)

How countries recover from political atrocity is a question that has confronted dozens of regimes around the world for decades.  The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an iconic symbol of what for some is a profound achievement in restructuring a “peaceful society.”  In Transforming Societies After Political Violence: Truth, Reconciliation, and Mental Health Dr. Brandon Hamber applies his many years of experience both within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and beyond it to a careful analysis of the complex issues – legal, historical, social, psychological - embedded in such a process.  It is his astute attention to these complexities that make his book so rich.  Hamber says that “if the TRC process and working with the victims appearing before it taught me anything it was that the psychological life of the survivor of extreme violence is cut through by this complexity."  His work is clear testimony to that statement Transforming Societies After Political Violence is a valuable resource for researchers, practitioners, scholars and policy makers.  If you read one book about countries emerging from their violent pasts, it should be Dr. Brandon Hamber’s Transforming Societies After Political Violence.  I will rely on this volume in my ongoing work and I predict it will become a definitive text in this area (Nina K. Thomas, Ph.D., ABPP, Chair, Specialization in Trauma and Disaster Studies; NYU Postdoctoral program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis; Co-Chair, Relational Orientation; NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis; Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis)


Hamber brings an acute clinical sensibility and sophisticated research mind to a complex problem: state handling of reconciliation after a catastrophic upheaval. … his main focus in this book is the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process. … a must read for any psychologist working with trauma survivors, especially postconflict trauma survivors. It calls upon a rich literature–from psychoanalysis … to trial transcripts of commissions; it integrates all these sources to provide a truly unique contribution to the psychology of trauma." (Don Dutton, PsycCRITIQUES, Vol. 54 (47/3), November, 2009)



Contents

Transforming Societies after Political Violence: Truth, Reconciliation, and Mental Health
by Brandon Hamber (Springer, 2009)


Chapter 1: Looking back, moving forward

Chapter 2:
Miracles, trauma, and the truth commission

Chapter 3:
A tidal wave of emotion

Chapter 4:
A place for healing

Chapter 5:
Ambivalence and closure


Chapter 6: Reparations and paying for the past


Chapter 7:
Doing justice

Chapter 8: Assessing truth and reconciliation


Chapter 9: Truth telling and violence prevention

Chapter 10: Transforming transitional societies




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ISBN: 978-0-387-89426-3 Springer 2009



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