There appears to be a rift between the theoretical and normative understandings of what reconciliation means and offers, and what people expect to happen in postconflict scenarios. Here we present a conceptual framework that captures the definitional diversity surrounding the concept of reconciliation and then operationalizes it in order to analyze responses from postconflict populations. The illustrative application of our framework to responses from a representative survey of 1,843 Colombian citizens reveals that people’s convictions are just as diverse as scholars’. Nevertheless, significant proportions of respondents seem to understand reconciliation to primarily be a psychological and political process which aims to achieve the reestablishment of quotidian or day-to-day relations and cooperation; which should be preceded by the cessation of violence, dialogue, good-will, and attitudinal and emotional change; and which should be accompanied by social welfare and security. Notoriously, understandings of reconciliation as a process mediated by justice, truth and memory are scarce. The application of said framework will help to reveal differences between hopes and promises, and inform scholarly work and policy-making that is more realistically rooted.
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