The twentieth century presents us with a symphony of gross violations of human rights and commitments to never again, culminating, in its last years with the constitution of an international court to prosecute those at the apex of responsibility for crimes against humanity. In the case of systematic violations, however the actions of the individual captured by criminal prosecution are always embedded in broader social structures and cultural orientations. But how do we attend to the base, the foundation of this triangle of responsibility? This paper explores how political apologies constitute one strategy for addressing the collective dimension of violations. It does so through examining the Australian case where apology arose as a response to systematic violations against indigenous peoples. First detailing the background, the paper explores the debates around an apology, focusing in particular on the objection to collective responsibility. It then sets the contemporary collective apology against its buried religious history. Finally, with this historical and hermeneutic material in hand, it considers the work that apologies might do in the broader context of transitional justice.

Public Apology between Ritual and Regret

Symbolic Excuses on False Pretenses or True Reconciliation out of Sincere Regret?


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