IPRH Symposium: "Resentment's Conflicts"; Colleen Murphy: "Resentment and Political Reconciliation"
Guest Writer: Luján Stasevicius

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

posted under , , , , by Unit for Criticism

"Ruin", section from "Too much world" ("Demasiado mundo") by Marina Núñez.
[On October 19, 2012 the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities and the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese co-organized “Resentment’s Conflicts: A Symposium.” “Resentment and Political Reconciliation” was a talk given by Colleen Murphy (Philosophy). Her talk is reviewed below by guest writer Luján Stasevicius, a graduate student affiliate in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.]

Luján Stasevicius (Spanish, Italian and Portuguese)

Colleen Murphy´s paper dealt with the topic of understanding the relations between resentment and political reconciliation in countries that have experienced dictatorships or civil conflicts. Murphy spoke about the large number of communities around the world that have attempted to transition from dictatorships to democracy, calling them “transitional communities." South Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Argentina and Spain were among the countries she described as “transitional communities.”

Her focus was on how to achieve justice in transitional communities in which basic human rights had been denied for so long. For Murphy, the success of democracy is related to a discourse of forgiveness. She characterized this question as part of a moral debate, since the transitional communities must justify their responses to the past to present communities. Justice, she said, involves punishment and the infliction of pain on those who did wrong. However, in many of these societies, reconciliation involves the avoidance of punishment “for the sake of democracy, so it does not fail.” This appeal to reconciliation is also used to justify amnesty for criminals. Murphy equated such reconciliation to political forgiveness.

Reconciliation refers etymologically to the process of repairing damage, making this approach to justice not only a failure at reparation, but also one that urges victims to overcome their negative emotions about suffering. Repair is thus related to the achievement of forgiveneswhich is presented as critical for relationships in the long term.

Murphy raised three main issues arising from this model. First, there is an evident disconnect between the actual relationships under discussion and the model used to address them. During dictatorship, the model assumes, wrongdoing is the exception so that individuals can -- and should -- overcome their resentment. According to Murphy, this expectation is not only naive, but also complicit in perpetuating injustice. By expecting victims to change, this method shifts responsibility for reconciliation away from political forces and toward victimized individuals. The result is to overlook systematic violence and abuse of human rights on the part of the state

Colleen Murphy (Philosophy) speaking at "Resentment's Conflicts"
Requiring the victim to change -- to forgive and forget -- not only fails to address the violence the victim has been through, but also prevents a step forward at the level of the state toward ending violence. Finally, reconciliation entails using Catholic moral values such as forgiveness to measure success—a gauge all too subject to the continued oppression. In concluding her talk, Murphy argued that political reconciliation often fails to achieve forgiveness. In transitional communities, relationships are still damaged because the key values of reciprocity and mutuality are undermined, and these values require conditions that must be based on trust and respect for all participants.. The pursuit of a trust-based model of reconciliation which focuses on these necessary conditions will be more effective in truly addressing resentment.

After the talk, there were many questions related to specific cases in which political reconciliation had been sought without focus on forgiveness. A question was asked in relation to the usefulness of the category of "victim" in the discussion about social justice. Murphy’s answer addressed the need to think about relationships in general and not in terms of categories, so we can ask other questions such as “what does it mean for a perpetrator to do wrong?” Another comment connected conditions for reconciliation and the economic, asking if reconciliation was compatible with imperialism.Examples of Honduras and Paraguay ) were cited. Murphy answered that any successful reconciliation has to take into account the third parties involved, in order to make sure that reconciliation is not compatible with imperialism.


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