Source: (2008) European Journal of Social Theory. 11(3):331-350.

This article explores the phenomenon of empathy and examines its manifestation in the context of encounters between victims/survivors of gross human rights violations and perpetrators who are perceived by victims/survivors as showing signs of remorse. The article considers the factors that mediate the development of empathy through, on the one hand, the examination of the external dynamics of victim-perpetrator encounters, and on the other, the analysis of the intrapsychic dynamics of these encounters. The article argues that the defining elements of empathic experience emerge within the relational, intersubjective realm of the victim-perpetrator encounter. The article engages an interdisciplinary dialogue between Emmanuel Levinas’ ethics of responsibility for ‘the Other’ and a psychoanalytic conceptualization of the capacity for empathy. It asserts that the emotional state of empathy shared by victims and perpetrators is a result of a pivotal turn to perspective taking and gaining an integrated view of the other. The article concludes that ‘empathic repair’ is a useful concept for understanding the process of forgiveness in the context of gross human rights violations. (author's abstract)