The Irredeemability of the Past: Determinants of Reconciliation and Revenge in Post-Conflict Settings
56 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2023
Date Written: May 31, 2023
In the aftermath of violent conflict, identifying former enemy collaborators versus innocent bystanders forced to flee violence is difficult. In post-conflict settings, internally displaced persons (IDPs) risk becoming stigmatized and face difficulties reintegrating into society. This work considers the role of moral disapproval and future social value in processes of post-conflict reconciliation with stigmatized IDPs. We run two conjoint experiments embedded within a large-N face-to-face survey across three areas of Iraq (n=4,592) experiencing the return of stigmatized IDPs, many of whom are suspected of having collaborated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Immutable factors related to a stigmatized IDP’s past behavior, namely the severity of a transgression and the volition behind it, are the strongest predictors of both reconciliation and revenge. Transitional justice mechanisms signaling the IDP’s present and future redemption have little to no impact. Analyses employing cognitive and emotional statistical mediators further demonstrate that past behavior shapes justice intuitions because it simultaneously activates a past-oriented moral condemnation and a future-oriented heuristic assessment of the value and risks of associating with the stigmatized individual. This orientation towards past behavior is consistent irrespective of major individual differences including trust in the involved institutions, ISIS victimization, and ethnic identity. These findings highlight the mounting challenges involved in transitional justice in the aftermath of violent conflict and suggests that fact-finding missions are key to reintegration of the millions of displaced persons IDPs currently in Iraq and elsewhere.
Keywords: Reconciliation, Revenge, Peace, Iraq, Islamic State, Survey experiment
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