Research to Healing

Conceptions, Methodologies, Approaches and Practices of Healing: A Mapping Research Proposal

This proposed research is part of a UNESCO/GHFP Project entitled ‘Healing the Wounds of Slavery’ that seeks to contribute to healing the wounds left by trans-Atlantic slavery and address some of its psycho-social, economic and political consequences. The research arose from the discussions held during an international symposium jointly convened by UNESCO Slave Route Project and GHFP Research Institute in October 2018, in partnership with the Berkley Center at Georgetown University. The event was attended by 35 global specialists who reflected on trans-Atlantic slavery histories, and considered the continued dehumanisation, injustice and discrimination endured by generations of African Americans in the Caribbean and Americas. It also examined some emergent approaches to healing the wounds of slavery. Drawing on additional recommendations from previous meetings organized by UNESCO and its partners, (eg. the workshop the on “The Psychological consequences of Slave Trade and Slavery” held in Toronto in November 2010, and the International Colloquium on “Slavery: What Impact on Populations?” organized in October 2016 in Martinique), among other points, the symposium highlighted the need for a better understanding of healing and of relevant healing approaches and practices.

With an aim to map out the diverse conceptions and methodologies of healing mass traumas such as genocide and slavery, this research locates the inquiry around the contextualised question: “What might constitute healing (in the context of the wounds of trans-Atlantic slavery)?”

This research comprises an initial phase of the UNESCO/GHFP Healing the Wounds of Slavery Project, which includes at least three steps:

Step One is the research to conceptualise, collect and compare diverse experiences and
practices of healing relevant mass traumas. It aims at building a common understanding of meanings and dimensions of healing, and defining methodologies and approaches most relevant and best suitable for the healing processes in the Caribbean and Americas. Step One is especially mindful of the imperative to distinguish between healing, reconciliation and justice, and to stress linkages among them.

Step Two is the development of a Handbook, on the basis of the research findings, that will offer a comparative analysis of healing experiences and provide useful recommendations for healing workshops/programmes at different levels (grassroots, national regional, international). The handbook will be used to guide a series of pilots in the region.

Step Three is the implementation of the pilots in selected communities in the region. The pilots will offer insight into how best to approach healing given the continued racial injustice and discrimination. They would also help identify the social, economic, and political commitments and conditions necessary for healing at local and national levels, and the relationships between healing processes and these commitments and conditions.