Revisiting the Past: A Discursive Psychological Approach to Anglo-Japanese Reconciliation Over the Second World War

  • Kyoko MurakamiEmail author
Part of the Peace Psychology Book Series book series (PPBS)


Reconciliation is a ubiquitous social phenomenon, woven into the fabric of everyday lives. It is emblematic of the human condition in post-conflict societies. In this chapter, I will present a positioning analysis of the discursive practice of reconciliation occasioned in accounts produced by British Second World War veterans, who were interned as prisoners of war in a Japanese labour camp. The positioning analysis is aimed at examining ways in which autobiographical accounts of the past produced in research interviews with several surviving British veterans in the 1990s mobilize relevant identities and membership categories within social relations. Drawing on a case of post-Second World War Anglo-Japanese reconciliation (Murakami, 2012), I shall argue that reconciliation is therefore discursively accomplished in the interview talk as the participants—the veterans and the researcher—attend to the delicate issues of post-war animosity against the Japanese. The analytical focus of discursive reconciliation is on social accountability (Buttny, 1993). It is a feature of reconciliation talk in which people actively demonstrate their ability to recast the pejorative significance of past action, repair the broken, and restore the estranged. The discursive approach to reconciliation illustrated in the chapter sheds light onto, and challenges, the core assumptions made in peace psychology and conflict resolution research. In taking a critical stance, I will highlight the assumptions endemic in peace psychology and mainstream approaches to conflict resolution research and propose reconciliation not as an interior phenomenon, but as social practices situated within the discursive community, being observable within communicative activities in an Anglo-Japanese cross-cultural setting.


Accountability Discursive psychology Peace psychology Positioning Reconciliation 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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