Apologies: Mourning the Past and Ameliorating the Future (Apologies)

Venue: Claremont Graduate University

Location: Claremont, California,

Event Date/Time: Feb 08, 2002 End Date/Time: Feb 10, 2002
Paper Submission Date: Oct 15, 2001
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This conference examines the increasingly potent role of apology as a
social force. We will explore in a comparative and
interdisciplinary framework the role and function—as well as the
limitations—that apology has in promoting dialogue, tolerance,
and cooperation between groups confronting one another over past
injustices. Our aim is to facilitate an exchange among scholars
and students in a variety of disciplines—including history, international
relations, sociology, legal studies, psychology, and
religion—so that we can better understand the real and symbolic
transactions that lie at the core of apology.

Group conflicts have their own histories. As our view of the past becomes
increasingly connected to injustice, models for conflict
resolution and restitution become vital tools in our efforts to preserve and
promote justice and peace. In recent years, we have
witnessed a new willingness on the part of perpetrators to engage and
accommodate the demands of their victims. This trend
would seem to coincide with a (novel) reinvigorated commitment to morality,
particularly in the realm of international relations.
And yet, we still lack sufficient understanding of the role and importance
of apology for inter-group relations. By bringing closure
to conflicts and by opening new possibilities for communication and mutual
understanding, can apology help to ameliorate the
present? By approaching old injustices through apology, can we create
new, inclusive narratives which can acknowledge past
conflicts while dampening frictions between rival groups?
This three-day conference will feature distinguished scholars in a series
of presentations and discussion panels aimed at stimulating
debate and cross-cultural conversation on the meanings, uses, and abuses
of apology. The event will include both conceptual and
empirical components and will feature one or more keynote addresses by
public figures whose work relates to the field. Topics
for discussion might include:
· Definitions of Apology and Reconciliation: In what ways is apology
related to acknowledgement and forgiveness? To what
extent is apology an admission of guilt and responsibility? What is the
difference between apology and atonement? Apology and
repentance? Forgiveness and redemption? What roles do victims,
perpetrators, and larger “moral communities” play in the
negotiation of apology and forgiveness? In what ways is apology a
perpetrators’ act? In what ways is it a victims’ act?
· The Psychology of Apology: What psychological models help us to
understand the transactions that lie at the core of apology.
How do apologies affect victims and perpetrators. What are the
psychological “costs” of apology? What have empirical studies
taught us about apology as a strategy for conflict resolution?
· Religion, Ethics, and Apology: What place have religion and theology given
to apology? How well do recent acts of inter-group
apology fit with religious understandings of restorative justice? What is
the relationship between apology and atonement?
Apology and redemption? To what extent do apologies rely on theological
language and how does this language promote, mask, or
curb instances of violence? Does apology offer possibilities for
sustainable reconciliation in religiously-divided societies? How
have religious institutions intervened in specific instances of historic
injustice (e.g., Holocaust, Slave Trade)?
· Cross-Cultural Comparisons: What “counts” as apology in various cultures?
What do apologies accomplish within a given
culture? What behaviors are expected to accompany an apology within a
give culture? How do groups from different cultures
negotiate apology and forgiveness where cultural differences may pose an
impediment to communication? In what ways has
cultural identity shaped recent acts of apology?
· Apologies, History, and Memory: In what ways do apologies work to
re-write the past? How might the act of apology combine
memory and forgetting? How is apology related to commemoration? How
are apologies negotiated where victims and
perpetrators are no longer present or are unwilling to participate? What
role can third parties (e.g., bystanders or descendants of
the principals) play in the negotiation of apology and reconciliation?
· Representations of Apology: How have apologies for past acts of injustice
been treated in literature and the arts? Is language an
adequate tool to communicate apology and forgiveness? Can institutional
memory, e.g., museums, work in the service of apology
and reconciliation? Are apologies negotiated more easily where
representations of past injustice are “multi-vocal” and inclusive?
· The Politics of Apology: What role do institutions and interest groups play
in the negotiation of apology? How do interest groups
translate their desire for apology into legislation? Do apology and
reconciliation intersect within an emerging discourse on groups
rights? What role can apology play in transitions to democracy? Can
apology help to increase political participation within a
divided society? Do instances of apology point to an emergent international
morality? Which stories of conflict and injustice work
to elicit apologies? What are the limits of apology?
· Apology and Group Identity: In what ways do groups negotiate and
re-negotiate their identities through apology? What kinds of
groups are most successful in transforming their identities through apology
and restitution? What can the discourse on apology tell
us about the status of the nation, the nation-state, and ethno-national
sub-communities? What role do non-governmental
organizations play in these negotiated apologies?
· Apology as a Form of Legal Redress: How does apology relate to
contemporary notions of justice? Does apology help to
promote a new, transformative approach to justice? To what extent is it
possible to adjudicate the past? Which philosophies of
law might accommodate new understandings of apology and forgiveness?
How does apology mesh with established forms of
redress such as compensation and restitution? Which forms of legal
redress might be applied to instances of group conflict? How
can we adapt mediation techniques for interpersonal conflict so that they
apply to instances of inter-group conflict?
· The “Deep Structure” of Apology: Do anthropological and sociological
approaches to apology point to something like “deep
structure?” Do cross-cultural and comparative studies of apology point to a
common denominator or a set of shared factors? Has
the meaning of apology changed over time? Is apology a fundamentally
human act, or do different groups each learn a unique,
culturally-encoded iteration of this transaction?
· Cases Studies: How has apology worked (or failed) to promote justice and
reconciliation in specific cultural and political
contexts? How have groups framed the concepts of guilt and responsibility
to meet their own specific needs? We hope to
address a broad sampling of group conflicts here, including but not limited
to: debates concerning an apology for slavery, apologies
for the Holocaust, apologies to indigenous groups, apologies to
Japanese-American internees; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the
conflict in Northern Ireland, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation
Committee, lustration and transitional justice in Eastern
Europe and Latin America, apologies for military excesses in times of
armed conflict, return of cultural properties, conflict
resolution in societies engaged in civil war, negotiating resolutions between
majorities and minorities, apology and the discourse of
“Apologies: Mourning the Past and Ameliorating the Present” is planned for
February 8-10, 2002. The conference will take place
on the campus of the Claremont Colleges, a short (25 mile) drive from
downtown Los Angeles. A detailed program schedule will
be provided once the list of participants has been finalized. For more
information, please contact Alexander Karn, Conference
Coordinator, at: Alexander.Karn@cgu.edu.

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