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Justice, religion, and healing: a Cambodian perspective.

Dr. Gwynyth J. Overland

Rituals and other religious activities constitute resources for healing after traumatic stress. Yet these are not the only links between religion and mental survival. In a recent PhD project, resilient survivors of the Khmer rouge were asked “the salutogenetic question” (Antonovsky, 1987): not, why were they sick, but why were they healthy?
Findings suggested that successful survivors used religion as a secure ‘knowledge’ of how to act and how to explain the traumatic events of the Cambodian holocaust. A nomos, the internalised cognitive and normative edifice used by the individual in his own subjective ordering of experience, was the key to survival and post-traumatic recovery.
This paper focuses on how accessing this ‘knowledge’ may be used as a strategy to promote healing in the psychological and medical care of post-conflict survivors from cultures where religions are fundamentally constitutive. Finally it examines how ‘justice’ may be viewed from this perspective.

ISSHR Conference, 6- 8 October 2011, Tbilissi, Georgia.
Health and Human Rights: Doing Justice, Building Capacity
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Gwynyth J. Overland
Gwynyth J. Overland
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Dr. Gwynyth J. Overland

Gwynyth Jones Overland is senior consulting sociologist at Psychosocial team for Refugees / Regional Trauma Centre in Southern Norway, where she works closely with psychologists and medical doctors on case work and research. 


Overland was born and raised in New England and attended Vassar College. She completed her Masters degree in sociology at the University of Oslo in 1998, with a dissertation entitled "Culture and survival: the continuity of cultural practices among Cambodian refugees in Norway". She is currently senior advisor at the Regional trauma centre in Southern Norway (RVTS Sor) and Sorlandet hospital trust(SSHF). Her field of expertise is forced migration.

Gwynyth Overland’s doctoral thesis, Post traumatic survival: a study of Cambodian resilience will be defended at the Universitety of Agder on 24 August 2012.  



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