What Our Societies Deny

Materials: Flipchart paper, markers


Exercise description

The participants split into groups based on nationality. Their task is to discuss and prepare a presentation about What our society denies (in relation to dealing with the past). The presentations should include concrete examples. The time for working in groups is about 25 minutes. Then each group presents its conclusions, with possible questions for clarification.

Type of exercise:


45-90 min


It can be useful to give some brief theoretical input before this exercise to get the participants thinking about less obvious forms of denial. For example, Cohen’s “states of denial” in relation to what is being denied.*

* Stanley Cohen. Stanje poricanja: Znati za zlodela i patnje [States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering] (Belgrade: Samizdat B92, 2003), pp. 30–33. In addition to literal denial – claiming that something did not happen –  Cohen defines another two types. One is interpretive denial, when we accept the facts but assign them a different meaning. The other is implicatory denial, when we accept the facts about what happened and even their interpretation, but refuse to concede that it has anything to do with us.

Possible difficulties:

Workshop example: