July 14 | Symposium 'A Multiperspective Understanding of the Past: The Elephant in the Room of Diverse Societies?'

Dealing with Sensitive Histories Through Intercultural Dialogue


Dutch society has seen plenty of controversies where one-sided views on history and heritage have inflamed public debate. As a diverse society, many Dutch citizens express multiple identities. We need to get to the root causes of conflict, radicalisation and polarisation. Could people's conflicting interpretations of the past be one of these root causes?


Whereas every society has its own peculiar struggle with 'dealing with the past', there is an emerging understanding of common challenges among civil society organisations.


On Friday 14 July, the symposium brings together views and experiences of active civil society , including educators, academics, cultural workers, and engaged citizens, from The Netherlands, as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina, India, Lebanon and Ukraine.



What to expect?


We will start the day with a critical look at Dutch society from the perspective of an outsider and an insider, introducing relevant debates surrounding the Golden Coach and Black Pete controversies. Dr. Timothy Ryback, contributor to The New Yorker and director of the Institute of Historical Justice and Reconciliation, will share his view on the ethics of facing historical legacies of the past. In particular, the discussion will address difficult issues of identity, belonging, and polarisation. It is clear from the public debate in The Netherlands that radically opposing views on these matters challenge social cohesion.


Global perspectives, including Colombian, Croatian and South African perspectives, will be introduced by leading history educators who have traveled across the world to share their experiences and gain new insights. Their personal and professional journeys demonstrate the difficult nature of dealing with the past in divided, post-conflict societies. Often the recent violent past has had direct and immediate impact on their lives. How have they transformed their experiences into a catalyst for positive change?


The afternoon will explore in practical workshops how civil society initiatives are finding ways to address sensitive histories for a range of societal purposes, including reconciliation, intercultural dialogue and social cohesion.


We hope to meet you during our symposium and to learn from one another, in the Netherlands and across the world, whether we are frank enough about the elephant in the room.


The symposium is organised by EUROCLIO - European Association of History Educators, the Anna Lindh Foundation Netherlands Network and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation, and the event is made possible by the generosity of the Robert Bosch Foundation and Konferentie Nederlandse Religieuzen, and is kindly hosted by the Erasmus University Rotterdam's Center for Historical Culture.





Date: Friday 14 July 2017

Location: Mandeville building Erasmus University Thomas Morelaan, 3062 PA Rotterdam

An overview of the programme can be found in the attachment below.


There is no fee for this symposium. A lunch will be provided.


Please find the latest information at our event page.


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