I have been a SPSSI member for five years now—just before obtaining my PhD at the University of Sussex (2007-2008). My professor and mentor, professor Rupert Brown, recommended becoming a SPSSI member.
What was the research for which you won your SPSSI award?
On a general level, my research addressed the question of how people come to terms with their past marked by collective and gross human rights violations (e.g., mass killings, genocide, torture, etc.) with the goal of identifying socio-psychological processes and conditions which would, in turn, facilitate sustainable intergroup reconciliation. On a more specific level, I have examined antecedents and consequences of two processes important in any post-conflict setting: the process of acknowledgment of responsibility of one’s group crimes, and collective emotions of guilt and shame (which might rise as a consequence of knowing and acknowledging that one’s group has committed grave harm towards others). I have investigated these questions mainly but not exclusively in a post-conflict environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina where intergroup relations have not only been damaged by the recent war but are characterized by lack of meaningful contact and high levels of mistrust.
Are you currently continuing to pursue this line of research?
Yes, I am. My previous research has mainly addressed the perspective of the perpetrator group. As stated above, I specifically addressed the question of socio-psychological processes which might facilitate an increase in acknowledging ingroup responsibility as an important pillar of sustainable intergroup reconciliation. My current research has shifted to the victim group perspective. In that regard, I am examining victim group responses to different reactions by the perpetrator group such as denial, acknowledgment, emotions of guilt and shame, reparation and/or apology offers etc. Examining this question is important as socio-psychological research still needs to determine (or at least understand) not only which reaction (as offered by the perpetrator group) will eventually lead to a change in perceptions, emotions and behavior by the victim group, but also how and why this is so. This is the question that Professor Rupert Brown and I are currently examining.
What are some of the social issues that are important in your country/region of the world?
My country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, faces incredible challenges while at the same time tries to deal with the burden and legacy of the past. In my view, one of the greatest challenges that we are currently facing is how to re-build intergroup trust which would then lead to more cooperative and common-goal oriented behavior. This question of intergroup trust is important in any multi-ethnic state and it becomes even more prominent in post-conflict contexts.
Unfortunately, Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently a very segregated and deeply saddened society. Together with its peoples and citizens it underwent a horrific war where most of the harm was inflicted against innocent civilians, children, and the elderly. Those who have not been killed or tortured in some way have been forced to leave their home. However, and despite these tragic and unjust events, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains home to different ethnic groups. The question of how to efficiently restore the country together with its economic, social and moral system, by and through its politically constituent ethnic groups still remains to be addressed by all facets and levels of the society.
How do you bring SPSSI’s principles and mission to your work/country?
SPSSI is an organization which has always focused on important social problems of the human kind. It has sought to influence public policy initiatives while relying on theory and scientific empirical evidence. I have always admired organizations which efficiently combine the world of science with the social and political arena. In my work, which goes beyond research, I try to implement the exact same agenda through:
1. Creating socially and politically relevant education programs. In that regard, together with my colleagues from the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology. I have developed the first interdisciplinary masters program in conflict analysis and reconciliation in this country that will address issues and questions ranging from the causes of various intergroup conflicts, possible resolution strategies, post-conflict and reconciliation processes. This program is aimed not only at students interested in these issues academically but also at people working in various local or international governmental or non-governmental (relevant) institutions and organizations.
2. Working with media. I remain a strong advocate that researchers should translate their research findings, as much as it is possible, into language that will be understandable and applicable to a non-academic community through an active engagement with various modes of media.
3. Consulting to relevant local and international organizations dealing with issues of transitional justice and reconciliation. Such types of consulting work refer to provision of sound methodological evaluations of (their) applied work, which, in turn, increases the chances of further funding as well as advising in terms of what factors ought to be considered when developing and implementing projects on the ground.
What do you feel is the best way to advance the psychological study of social issues?
Through publically promoting its importance and implications for the world and human kind by using all available publication means while relying on successful examples from the past. In addition to this, professors and researchers ought to incorporate this field of study into their existing curricula.
What do you like to do when you are not working to advance the psychological study of social issues?
I find my rest, my peace, and my joy in spending as much time as possible with my son, Noah Clancy. I have also been practicing yoga for the last twelve years and try to do it on a daily basis. In general spending time with family and friends (preferably outdoors) is something I like to do when I am not working.
What is your favorite psychology book?
This might sound as a cliché but one book I always keep coming back to is The Nature of Prejudice by Gordon Allport.
What is your favorite non-psychology book?
There are plenty but at this particular moment books that pop to my mind are Orientalism by Edward Said, My Life by Bill Clinton, On Photography by Susan Sontag, Dervish and the Death by Mesa Selimovic; and when I was young I loved Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder.