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Apology, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

Workshop Leader:

Richard Marback, Wayne State University

Participants in this workshop will explore the rhetorical dimensions of apologizing and forgiving. This workshop is intended for scholars in rhetorical studies who are interested in the intertwined issues of agency and justice. As Hannah Arendt has observed, our capacities for apology and forgiveness, our capacities to change our responses to past injuries, are the very capacities that allow us to influence what events can come to mean in our lives and in the lives of our communities. In the time since Arendt observed the central roles played by apology and forgiveness in shaping the human condition, reconciliation has emerged as an important option for individuals, communities, and nations seeking to move beyond the pull of past injuries or injustices. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) remains, twenty years from its founding, an important example of both the prospects and perils of apology and forgiveness.

With the TRC serving as primary example, workshop participants will be introduced to key debates on apology and forgiveness in such fields as peace and conflict studies, political science, and psychology. The goal will be to develop an adequate critical vocabulary appropriate for enhancing the rhetorical study of apologizing and forgiving. Among the issues central in this research are claims for agency, concerns about dignity, and conceptualizations of justice. During the workshop, participants will explore the articulation of this other research with related issues in the field of rhetorical studies, in effect constructing an agenda for the emerging study of apology and forgiveness within rhetoric itself.

Prior to the workshop, participants will be asked to share and reflect on their own experiences/examples. These reflections will encourage awareness of the personal dimensions of apology and forgiveness. Prior to the workshop, participants will also be asked to read select relevant research on the history and experience of the TRC in order to develop initial understanding of issues raised by the institutional orchestration of reconciliation. Completing the reflections and readings before the workshop will allow us to spend the time during the workshop elaborating an agenda for the rhetorical study of apology and forgiveness, which will in turn enable workshop participants to define research projects of their own.

Questions should be directed to Richard Marback, aa4749@wayne.edu


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