Searching the Role of Art in Peacebuilding

Sangduk Kim on the Spectres of Justice Conference in Marburg.

During 28-30 May 2015, an interesting conference, the Spectres of Justice, was held in Marburg, a historical city in Germany. This year, the theme of the conference was “The Aesthetics of Dealing with Violent Pasts”, which was part of continuous efforts to find the role of arts in transitional justice. Over thirty presentations sought to find ways of building peace beyond violence through different mediums of arts. The sub-themes of ten panel sessions were abundantly various such as landscapes/spaces of remembrance, visual culture, victims and perpetrators, transitional justice through the ages, performance, beyond reconciliation, sites and sights, weaving a narrative, public and private screenings, and giving voice to the absent.

I attended the conference on behalf of the CTPI. The conference was not only useful for my research but also inspiring for myself, particularly because of meeting with people working in the same field. They were kind and passionate in seeking peace and justice through arts. The key note speaker Michael Renov who has taught film and critical studies for thirty years discussed the role of testimony of the documentary film in dealing with violent conflict today. Ruti Teitel focused on narrative on film from a transitional perspective. Olivera Simic compared two different portraits exhibitions on reconciliation in Bosnia and Rwanda.

On the second day, we enjoyed a dinner at an African restaurant. I was told a story about how the conference had been initiated. About six years ago, Susanne Buckley-Zistel, one of the conference organizers, had a chance to share her interest in arts and transitional justice at her inaugural lecture at the Philipp University of Marburg. She came to meet her colleagues there and they shared and developed the idea of the conference. The need of the conference was certain. They agreed, for building peace beyond conflict, that interdisciplinary research is required. So they not only shared the ideas but also started to find partners. (The conference was co-organized by different groups such as the Research Network Reconfigurations, the Turning Points, and the Center for Conflict Studies at the University of Marburg, including the supports from the German government.) I found the conference is improving. They are collecting not only the academic research through the conference. They have a powerful network from scholars through practitioners to artists with various interests in arts. Finally, they are learning how to do interdisciplinary research within the network. On the last day, five participants discussed on the conference and its future. One of the common ideas they agreed was that they found all participants from different disciplines were using different definitions of each topic. And they said that is why they keep to meet each other again and again. I think it applies to us. For finding a better theology for public issues today, interdisciplinary research is necessary but it is hard to know what it means exactly. This is way the CTPI should go on, too.

Sangduk Kim, PhD Candidate in Christian Ethics and Practical Theology