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Do Museums Promote Reconciliation? A Field Experiment on Transitional Justice


  • Elsa Voytas

    (Princeton University)

  • Laia Balcells

    (Georgetown University)

  • Valeria Palanza

    (Universidad Catolica de Chile)


Can transitional justice museums promote reconciliation after political violence? Existing scholarship suggests that transitional justice policies aid processes of reconciliation and promote tolerance by acknowledging and imparting a shared history of past events. These notions motivate the widespread construction of transitional justice museums. Skeptics, however, caution that such policies can induce a polarizing effect, ingraining societal divisions. This project draws on evidence from a novel field experiment studying the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, Chile to answer this question. Our findings suggest that though perceptions of the museum vary along ideological lines, Chilean university students display greater support for democratic institutions, are more likely to reject institutions associated with the repressive period, and are more likely to approve of restorative transitional justice policies after visiting regardless of their ideological priors. These results suggest that memorial museums can support processes of reconciliation by influencing political attitudes of visitors.

Suggested Citation

  • Elsa Voytas & Laia Balcells & Valeria Palanza, 2018. "Do Museums Promote Reconciliation? A Field Experiment on Transitional Justice," Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC) Working Papers 10, Empirical Studies of Conflict Project.
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:esocpu:10

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    More about this item


    Transitional justice; Latin America; field experiments; reconciliation; museums and memorials; memory; Chile;

    JEL classification:

    • N46 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • F51 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Conflicts; Negotiations; Sanctions

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