UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transformative justice : the unforgiving and societal repair Kingston, Charlotte


In both the discourse and practice of transitional justice the act of individual forgiveness has become conflated with the process of political reconciliation. The effect has been to delegitimize the political space for those who identify as unforgiving or resentful. Despite a lack of empirical evidence illustrating the consequence of forgiveness on the political landscape, forgiveness continues to be promoted in transitional justice narratives as though it necessarily advances the process of political reconciliation. In other words, it is perceived as having a social utility. This presumed collective benefit allows forgiveness discourse to overshadow the concerns that imposing forgiveness may have negative effects on individual survivors and communities transitioning away from mass violence. Using the data from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Barometer, this work uses binomial logit to question the uninterrogated assumption that unforgiving attitudes represent a barrier to political reconciliation. Showing that it is possible to be both unforgiving and supportive of political reconciliation, this piece argues that the unforgiving also play a critical role in reconciliation processes. This work rejects forgiveness as an a priori good; showing the important role resentment and the reservation of forgiveness can play in demanding accountability and transformation. The testimony of the unforgiving possess a transformative capacity that is silenced by discourse and practices that conflate forgiveness with reconciliation. This serves to undermine the opportunity to generate transformed relationships through transitional processes. I argue here for the reclaiming of political space for the voices of the unforgiving and resentful in order to restore dignity to survivors and create the room for transformation of structures and relationships.

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