Doing Justice to the Past(2)

Term: Fall 2008

Subject Code: GPOL

Course Number: 6413

The past is not dead. It is not even past. (Faulkner) How much of the past survives in the present? Do members of the present generation have a responsibility to address past crimes and injustices? How extensive are our responsibilities to the past? What are the possibilities and the limitations of historical justice? Is there a place for forgetting? for forgiveness? In the past 60 years, there have been three main ways in which societies have tried to deal with past crimes: a) Trials for war crimes and human rights violations; for example, the Nuremberg trials, the Eichmann trial, and more recent proceedings of the International Court of Criminal Justice; b) Truth and reconciliation commissions, especially in transitional societies, for example, South Africa, Chile, Peru, etc. c) Commemoration practices; for example, memorials, museums, commemorative rituals. In this course, we will discuss the advantages and limitations of each these ways of dealing with crimes of the past. We will look at particular examples, we will also be concerned to explore some of the theoretical questions involved. These will include: the relationship between individual and collective responsibility; the choice between punishment, pardon and amnesty, and between remembering and forgetting; the relationship between memory and history. Authors discussed will include by Arendt, Jaspers, Benjamin, Habermas, Derrida.

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