This book is an in-depth reflection and analysis on why and how unsettling empathy is a crucial component in reconciliatory processes. Located at the intersection of memory studies, reconciliation studies, and trauma studies, the book is at its core transdisciplinary, presenting a fresh perspective on how to conceive of concepts and practices when working with groups in conflict.
The book Unsettling Empathy has come into being during a period of increasing cultural pessimism, where we witness the spread of populism and the rise of illiberal democracies that hark back to nationalist and ethnocentric narratives of the past. Because of this changed landscape, this book makes an important contribution to seeking fresh pathways toward an ethical practice of living together in light of past agonies and current conflicts. Within the specific context of working with groups in conflict, this book urges for an (ethical) posture of unsettling empathy. Empathy, which plays a vital role in these processes, is a complex and complicated phenomenon that is not without its critics who occasionally alert us to its dark side. The term empathy needs a qualifier to distinguish it from related phenomena such as pity, compassion, sympathy, benign paternalism, idealized identification, or voyeuristic appropriation. The word “unsettling” is just this crucial ingredient without which I would hesitate to bring empathy into our conversation.
Introduction: Working With Groups in Conflict
Part I: Frames
Chapter 1: Reconciliation: Setting the Stage
Chapter 2: Memory: Making Choices
Chapter 3: Trauma: Straddling the Line
Chapter 4: Empathy: Transforming Certitudes
Part II: Dynamics and Approaches
Chapter 5: Taking Risks, Telling Stories
Chapter 6: Haunting
Chapter 7: Frustrations
Chapter 8: Stepping into Time and onto Loaded Words
Chapter 9: Triangulating
Chapter 10: The Art of Wit(h)nessing
Björn Krondorfer is Director of the Martin-Springer Institute at Northern Arizona University and Endowed Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies.
Corruption, deceit, hatred, violence, atrocity—enough is enough. If that’s your yearning, Unsettling Empathy is for you. As well informed and realistic as it is hopeful, as inspiring as it is challenging, Björn Krondorfer’s much-needed book encourages insight and engagement that are indispensable to heal fractured lives and to save our imperiled world.
Krondorfer asks us to reflect on reconciliation in a complicated pluralistic world. Through his innovative concept of “Unsettling Empathy” he provides a path breaking book for practical and ethical conduits for reconciliation, inter-dialogue, and conflict resolution. This challenging book demonstrates that even the deeply wounded and war-torn corners of the world can work together. Courageous group work alongside a practical and academic study may lead to empathy and dialogue even if we are unsettled, unresolved, and traumatized.