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When Is Collective Exposure to War Events Related to More Acceptance of Collective Guilt?

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Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


Previous studies adopting the collective vulnerability approach have shown that condemnation of war atrocities is grounded in communal experiences of victimization and is strongest in locations where victimization was spread across ethnic boundaries. Based on a representative survey conducted in 2006 (N = 2,012) across the former Yugoslavia, we find a similar pattern for acceptance of collective guilt. While personal victimization does not have a significant impact, the acceptance of guilt is strongest in more war-affected regions. Moreover, the results show the importance of the type of communal-level victimization: acceptance of guilt is lowest in regions marked by asymmetric violence and highest in regions marked by symmetric violence. Our findings suggest that collective victimization should not be treated as a uniform phenomenon and challenge the assumption that rejection of in-group guilt is an inevitable outcome of collective victimization.