Trust in the aftermath of mass violence: insights from a mixed method life history approach

Date: 17 September 2015

Venue: UAntwerp - Stadscampus - Building S - Nile Room (1st floor) - Lang Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerp

Time: 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Organization / co-organization: IOB

Short description: Seminar by Prof Marijke Verpoorten (Associate Professor IOB, UAntwerp) and Dr Bert Ingelaere (Postdoctoral research fellow, FWO. IOB, UAntwerp)

A recent body of micro-empirical studies looks at the legacy of armed conflict on trust. Common methods for measuring trust include lab-in-the-field experiments as well as standardized survey questions. We take a different approach. We study trust in Rwanda on the basis of nearly 800 semi-structured life stories collected at two points in time. A mixed method approach was adopted during data collection and analysis: quantitative and qualitative data as well econometric and narrative analysis’ shed light on the changes in the experience of inter- and intra-ethnic trust over time.

Our mixed methods approach allows us to study the pathways of self-reported trust throughout people’s life span and to provide insights into the macro-, meso- and micro-level factors that affect changes in self-reported trust. Our findings show that inter-ethnic trust declined already prior to the outbreak of mass violence, reached a low point at the time of the genocide against Tutsi, and gradually recovered in the post-genocide years. Zooming in on the recovery process, we find recovery to be very nonlinear, reflecting its high sensitivity to macro-level policy and events.

We show that policies and events that mostly affect trust trigger psychological and rational processes, i.e. they trigger a change in emotions or in the updating of information and expectations. Underneath the averages, we detect large within-group heterogeneity in the pathways, reflecting the role played by meso- and micro-level factors. An in-depth analysis of the life story narratives of outlying cases, i.e. those stuck in mistrust and those showing remarkable resilience, demonstrates that this heterogeneity relates to several factors, including emotional coping with trauma, experiences with the transitional justice process, exposure to reconciliation efforts on the part of the government, and day-to-day experiences with members belonging to the other ethnic category.

We compare these results from the Rwandan case study with preliminary findings from Burundi where an identical research design was used most recently. Our methodological approach and findings provide guidance for efforts to contextualize the results of quantitative studies that measure the impact of armed conflict on trust, and assess their external and ecological validity. The findings also provide guidance for future work, by pointing out the drivers of trust recovery that need further study.

Entrance fee: Free

Registration: Compulsary

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Contact phone: +32 3 265 52 96