© 2009

Transforming Societies after Political Violence

Truth, Reconciliation, and Mental Health

  • Authors

Part of the Peace Psychology Book Series book series (PPBS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Brandon Hamber
    Pages 1-9
  3. Brandon Hamber
    Pages 11-36
  4. Brandon Hamber
    Pages 37-52
  5. Brandon Hamber
    Pages 53-73
  6. Brandon Hamber
    Pages 75-93
  7. Brandon Hamber
    Pages 95-115
  8. Brandon Hamber
    Pages 117-139
  9. Brandon Hamber
    Pages 141-163
  10. Brandon Hamber
    Pages 165-183
  11. Brandon Hamber
    Pages 185-206
  12. Back Matter
    Pages 207-249

About this book


It is a momentous day for a nation when war is over or a brutal regime ends. For victims and survivors of political atrocities, it is also a time to process trauma, to anticipate the future, to be heard—and to be healed.

Transforming Societies after Political Violence offers a template for those tasked with providing truth, justice, reconciliation, and healing. This interdisciplinary study identifies complex relationships between recovery from political violence and the psychological processes that accompany widespread social change, showing how these can be integrated to strengthen both individual and society. Author Brandon Hamber draws on his extensive experience in South Africa and comparative examples from elsewhere to examine the centrality of mental health issues in transitional justice, and the social, cultural, and identity issues involved in meeting the needs of victims. In discussing reparations (what the author terms "repairing the irreparable"), the power of ambivalence, and especially concepts of closure, he eloquently sets out professionals’ roles in helping survivors move beyond the toxic past without covering it up or becoming mired in it.

Among the critical areas covered:

  • The vital groundwork that must be made before reconciliation can occur.
  • Creating context-driven approaches to political and social trauma.
  • Assessing truth, documenting the past, and avoiding re-traumatization.
  • The role of mental health professionals in truth commission processes.
  • Survivors as agents for justice, from civic participation to giving public witness.
  • Reparations—symbolic meaning, national value, personal benefits.
  • Promoting reconciliation and preventing further violence.

A work that holds profound insight into the meaning of "doing justice," Transforming Transitional Societies is required reading for social and peace psychologists, as well as students and researchers of conflict and peace studies, transitional justice, and intergroup and international relations.


Peace Peacebuilding benefits of reparation intervention political traumatisation political violence truth-recovery process victim statements violence violence in transition

About the authors

Brandon Hamber, Ph.D. was born in South Africa and currently works in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  He was trained as a clinical psychologist in South Africa and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Ulster. He is the Director of  INCORE (International Conflict Research Institute), an associate site of the United Nations University based at the University of Ulster. He coordinated the Transition and Reconciliation Unit at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.  He works mainly in the area of violence and trauma, and coordinated the Centre's project focusing on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Transforming Societies after Political Violence
  • Book Subtitle Truth, Reconciliation, and Mental Health
  • Authors Brandon Hamber
  • Series Title Peace Psychology Book Series
  • Series Abbreviated Title Peace Psychology Book Series
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer-Verlag New York 2009
  • Publisher Name Springer, New York, NY
  • eBook Packages Behavioral Science Behavioral Science and Psychology (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-0-387-89426-3
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-4419-2793-4
  • eBook ISBN 978-0-387-89427-0
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages VIII, 249
  • Number of Illustrations 2 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Cross Cultural Psychology
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


From the reviews:

"Hamber brings an acute clinical sensibility and sophisticated research mind to a complex problem: state handling of reconciliation after a catastrophic upheaval. … his main focus in this book is the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process. … a must read for any psychologist working with trauma survivors, especially postconflict trauma survivors. It calls upon a rich literature–from psychoanalysis … to trial transcripts of commissions; it integrates all these sources to provide a truly unique contribution to the psychology of trauma." (Don Dutton, PsycCRITIQUES, Vol. 54 (47/3), November, 2009)