Headline: Overcoming polarization in crises: A research project on trauma and democracy with over 350 citizens

This report presents the results of a large group process over several days to jointly explore the relationship between collective trauma, social polarization and democracy. The process was realized in cooperation between Pocket Project e. V. and Mehr Demokratie e. V., led by Thomas Hübl, and brought together more than 350 people. At the center of the research on trauma, polarization and democracy presented here are the experiences and attributions of meaning of the participants in the form of stories (narratives). Narrative landscapes emerge as participants self-assessed their stories in terms of qualities of experience that were essential to them. These narrative landscapes provide us with information about how citizens interpret the new, often ambiguous and challenging events in the context of current social crises and derive meaning and actions from them. Based on a systematic analysis of the stories, this report illuminates trends and sketches an initial map providing insights on personal as well as societal, conscious as well as unconscious attempts to orient ourselves in a time of crisis. While the surveying of our outer world is already largely complete, the cartography of our inner, both individual-psychological and shared cultural, social and political landscapes, with all their depths and blind spots, has only just begun. We were touched by the many voices of participants who shared their inner experiences in the context of present and past crises. Exemplifying this, a project participant stated: “In every story there is history, we carry history within us, and therefore we have a voice.” Which voices are heard then? And which voices are not considered in the shaping of a democratic society? In the context of trauma, what is evidently absent is crucial.


Wagner, A., Strasser, J., & Schäpke, N.(2022). Overcoming polarization in crises: A research project on trauma and democracy with over 350 citizens. Berlin, Wardenburg: Mehr Demokratie e. V., Pocket Project e. V.

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