This ARC supported project aims to address the central problem of how we can respond to the legacy of oppression and political violence in ways that are ethical and not self-destructive or destructive of the rights of others. Critical to the processes of restoring peace and justice in both transitional and democratic societies and preventing mass atrocities are issues of trust and good will. These conditions are explored in this cross-disciplinary roundtable through questions such as: what is necessary for trust? What practices foster emotional cultures of trust? How is trust implicit in both violence prevention and restoration after conflict and violence?


RSVP by 23 November 2015 to Dr Terrilyn Sweep (

Dr Simone Drichel is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Otago, NZ. Her expertise is in New Zealand and postcolonial literature, postcolonial theory, psychoanalysis and continental philosophy. Simone will be talking about “Trust and Relationality”.

Dr Stephen McLoughlin is a research fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Griffith University. His research interests include mass atrocities early warning, structural prevention of mass atrocities, ethnic conflict in post-communist states, and the responsibility to protect. Stephen will be talking about “The Role of Resilience in the Prevention of Mass Atrocities”.

Dr Anne Brown is a senior research fellow at the School of Political Science & International Studies at UQ. Her expertise is in peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction; community building and conflict resolution; and inter-cultural dialogue. Anne will be reflecting on the role of the body, space and a relational epistemology of trust.

Associate Professor Marguerite La Caze is the Chief Investigator (CI) for this project and she is a lecturer and researcher at UQ. Her research interests include European philosophy, feminist philosophy, moral psychology, and aesthetics. Marguerite will be discussing “Trust, Truthfulness and Sincerity”.

Professor Roland Bleiker is a lecturer and researcher at the School of Political Science and International Studies at UQ. His expertise is in international political theory; images and emotions in world politics; postcolonial and feminist international relations; and security politics on the Korean peninsula. Roland will be introducing his topic of “Emotions and Post-Conflict Reconstruction”, which will be followed by a panel discussion.

This event is supported by the Australian Research Council, the European Philosophy Research Group, and the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities

Summary of Roundtable

Simone Drichel, “Trust and Relationality”. Simone’s paper considered disturbances in the ability to trust and the renouncing of relationality in the inability to trust, through a psychoanalytic reading of René Descartes’ Meditations using the work of Donald Winnicott. She considered a kind of Cartesian narcissism in the inability to tolerate broken trust, as well as the rupture of continuity of being as stemming from developmental trauma. Trauma needs a witness. In the absence of a witness, trauma becomes embodied as narcissism. The anxiety expressed in the Meditations can be traced to the death of Descartes’ mother at a very early age described in Stephen Gaukroger’s biography of Descartes, and the cogito itself can be understood as a desperate attempt to assure himself of his own existence. It may be the case that Descartes was in denial of his dependence on others and so, in an effort to heal his continuity of being, he developed a philosophy that relied exclusively upon his own mind via the splitting of body and mind. Dependence for Descartes may have been too problematic and it was suggested that he retreated into himself as a “necessary fiction born of expedience.” Simone’s exposition probes at the possibility of building a capacity to be vulnerable and consequently the capacity for trust.

Stephen McLoughlin, on “The Role of Resilience in the Prevention of Mass Atrocities”, considered the risk factors, which can often lead to genocide and mass atrocities, in relation to resilience that can mean these atrocities do not eventuate. He distinguished between operational prevention in the face of crises and structural prevention through strategies to address the root causes of deadly conflict. Research into genocide shows that root causes do not necessarily lead to violent outcomes; sometimes actions that prevent mass atrocities have other motives. The risk factors for genocide include: discrimination against certain groups, the use of militia, and the targeting of certain identity groups. Features of resilience include: constitutional protections, democracy, addressing real or perceived inequalities, security sector reform, and transitional justice mechanisms. The two countries Stephen discussed in showing the mix of risk factors and resilience that prevented mass atrocities were Botswana and Zanzibar. While different factors of risk and resilience played a role in both countries, trust was important on a number of levels – trust between individual leaders of different groups, trust in due process, trust and compromise among political elites, and trust in government.

Anne Brown, “A Bodily, Spatial and Relational Reflection on Trust”. Anne discussed different ways of demonstrating trustworthiness in the Pacific, East Timor, and West Africa. She argued for a move away from homogenous conceptions of trust as a total state to thinking of trust as partial and multi-faceted, or a ‘soft variable’, that involves trusting oneself, others, the surrounding world, nature, the future, and intimacy. Like power, trust is deeply contextual, and so is more like a landscape that highlights relationality and the interconnectedness of things. Violence severs this relationality and is a fundamental form of disempowerment, and so, a leap of faith is involved in restoring trust. Anne used a range of sources, including the work of Elaine Scarry and Caroline Nordstrom to examine the trust involved in basic situations such as being in the same room, experiencing relationality. She explained how trust emerged after conflict in the Philippines through face-to-face meetings, interim agreements, complaint mechanisms, and joint undertaking of tasks, such as the Philippine army helping schools. Overall, Anne contended that we need to theorise trust as a willingness to risk a leap into trust, which is often a visceral and emotional experience requiring reciprocity and mutuality with less dependence on mastery. Our dominant epistemology does not see trust as part of the way we ‘know’.

Marguerite La Caze, “Political Trust, truthfulness, and sincerity". Marguerite’s paper on trust after genocide or civil war, looked at the Kantian view that we should always tell the truth even in the worst of situations, and it argued for a caring kind of political trust developed through a kind of reliance rather than defiance. She considered Kant’s work in Toward Perpetual Peace, which examines the minimal conditions for moving from a provisional state to a rightful one in order to gain insight into peace and sincerity in a political context. Marguerite argued that in Kant’s view there must be such conditions for leaving a path open for peace, which can provide a model for thinking about building political trust after wars and other forms of conflict. She then spoke about the importance of truthfulness to trust. In the second section of the paper reference was made to Jean Améry, a Holocaust survivor whose trust in the world was lost “at the first blow.” Finally, Marguerite asked whether these conditions of trust obtain in post-genocide Rwanda. This situation shows that sometimes sincerity is not the most important thing, but truthfulness and the willingness to act as if we were sincere and thought others and the world are worthy of our trust, may be.

Roland Bleiker led a roundtable discussion on “Emotions and Post-Conflict Reconstruction”. Roland led the discussion by raising a series of questions concerning the relation between trust and emotions, since emotions are central to conflict and the resolution of conflict. He asked how we can break out of cycles of emotional conflict in order to trust, whether trust is an emotion, and should we understand trust as something conscious and amenable to conscious change, or pre-conscious and so more resistant to that kind of change.



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