Challenging the Myth of Italians as ‘Good Fellows’: Is Clarity About In-group Crimes the Best Choice When Narrating a War to Its Perpetrators’ Descendants?
The paper focuses on the interplay between generational transitions, social amnesia and mature reconciliation processes. In particular it explores the way different narratives of collective memories convey social representations of in-group history and address psycho-social needs that are at the core of reconciliation processes. An exploratory study was conducted to address the problem of narrating war crimes to descendants of the group of the perpetrators. We hypothesised that, compared to evasive narratives, detailed narratives (based on reification arguments) clarify unwanted self-images of the perpetrator to the new generation and promote more restorative behaviours. One-hundred and three young Italian participants read detailed or evasive narratives of war crimes committed during the invasion of Ethiopia by the Italian army. Results indicate that detailed narratives have more impact on participants, in terms of emotions and restorative behaviours. Participants’ identification with the in-group and their level of agreement with the shared myth of ‘Italians as good fellows’ also show significant effects. Our exploratory results suggest that, when the in-group is responsible for violence and crimes, the social sharing of an impartial truth – transmitted through detailed and reified arguments – is a necessary step towards mature reconciliation.