Destruction, heritage and memory: post-conflict memorialisation for recovery and reconciliation

Zeynep Ece Atabay, Alessandra Macedonio, Tarek Teba, Zeynep Gül Ünal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Downloads (Pure)


Conflicts lead to enormous loss of human lives and cause wide scale devastation and destruction. It also leaves deep and lasting traumas in the minds of those whose lives are torn apart because of a conflict. Memorialisation of conflict-affected sites plays an invaluable part in post-trauma recovery and can contribute to the reconciliation of different groups involved in a conflict as these sites are representatives of communities’ collective memory, identity and a source of unity and resilience. This paper investigates post-trauma recovery and reconciliation processes through the phenomena of memorialisation. It aims to answer how the memorialisation of sites of pain can contribute to the recovery and reconciliation of affected communities and serve as examples for other people around the world.
The documentation of such processes and the lessons learnt can offer valuable information for conducting similar exercises in other settings ravaged by a conflict. To achieve this, a review of literature on trauma, memory, memorialisation and difficult heritage was conducted, while the memorialisation processes from different conflicts such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1939-1945), Beirut (1975-1990) and Sarajevo’s Vijećnica and Mostar Bridge (1992-1995) were analysed.
It was identified that the potential of memorialisation for post-trauma recovery and reconciliation is vast. However, if these processes can “heal” or “hurt” depend largely on: who the stakeholders are; how the site and events are interpreted and presented; how pre/post-conflict relationships and dynamics are harnessed; how symbolic meanings (old and new) are [re]interpreted; the spatial-temporal nature of the site and those interacting with it; and the intended and perceived messages. Altogether, memorialisation of conflict-affected sites is a political and continuous process that should take in consideration all those directly and indirectly involved, the dynamics between them and all the symbolic meanings acquired and attributed to the site.
The study critically explores frameworks of Memorialisation and their impact on both built environmental and communities. It contributes to the wider discussion of difficult heritage Memorialisation and approaches to reflect on sites and cities emerging from crisis such as conflict or other types of disasters.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development
Early online date12 Apr 2022
Publication statusEarly online - 12 Apr 2022


  • Collective memory
  • Difficult heritage
  • Heritage-led reconciliation
  • Heritage-led recovery
  • Memorialisation
  • Sites of pain


Dive into the research topics of 'Destruction, heritage and memory: post-conflict memorialisation for recovery and reconciliation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this