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This article is interested in the formation of war legacies and how they interact with social identities. It suggests a bottom-up approach towards examining the societal processes in which individuals create a legacy of war. It posits that through their narratives of conflict, by remembering what happened to them as a group, they mould the meaning and boundaries of how the group will be membered post-conflict. The validity of the theorised link between war memory and group membership is then tested in the case of Syria. In 200 interviews, Syrians provided their narratives of the conflict and their vision of a future Syrian state and society. The findings show that most respondents’ narratives follow a civic rationale, forming a society around civil rights and political ideas rather than around ethnic/sectarian divides. With this, the article contributes a new route for international relations scholars to understand the formation of war legacies through individuals’ narratives of conflict and explains their effects on ties of group belonging while also offering a glimpse into the Syrian ‘we’ amid the ongoing war in Syria.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date



Legacy of war, memory, narratives of conflict, social trauma, societal belonging, Syria