Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Caroline Williamson
Towards a theory of collective posttraumatic growth in Rwanda: The pursuit of agency and communion
Optional Fields
posttraumatic growth, intergroup dynamics, postconflict, Rwanda
Despite a proliferation of research into posttraumatic growth, little attention has been paid to growth processes at the collective or group level. Where scholars have addressed collective posttraumatic growth, concepts such as cohesion and group identity have been flagged as positive responses to collective traumas such as the 9/11 bombings in the United States. However, although some have suggested that these responses may constitute positive change or posttraumatic growth, others have interpreted increases in group cohesion and collective identity as consistent with processes of ingroup enhancement. In a country like the United States, where the attack came from outside the country, at first glance, these processes may appear positive. On closer examination, however, it can be seen that ingroup enhancement co-occurs with outgroup derogation, which is clearly unfavorable for outgroup members. This article examines the case of Rwanda, where conflict arose between groups within the country. It shows how processes of ingroup enhancement are in fact disruptive rather than constructive because of this co-occurrence with processes of outgroup derogation. The article proposes an alternative model for understanding how collective posttraumatic growth may manifest itself, drawing on notions of agency and communion. By discursively analyzing the testimonies of female Rwandan genocide survivors, it is demonstrated that groups, much like individuals, must pursue drives of autonomy (freedom) and relatedness (reconciliation). By providing an understanding of collective responses to trauma and how posttraumatic growth is likely to manifest itself, such a model may offer insights into how positive change may be facilitated in postconflict societies.
Grant Details
Art & Humanities Research Council