Source: (2006) Toronto, Canada: Munk Centre for International Studies at Trinity College. University of Toronto.

This essay examines apologies that are offered on behalf of public bodies in response to historic wrongs. Martha Minow notes that “apology depends upon a paradox. No matter how sincere, an apology cannot undo what was done, and yet ‘in a mysterious way and according to its own logic, this is precisely what it manages to do.’” Is there magic at work in apologies? Or, at least, successful apologies? The context of this essay is the insufficiency of justice seeking in the world, and the unhealthy, sometimes long-mouldering residue left behind by generations that have ignored great wrongs or failed to address them properly. “It should be recognized that in a perfect society victims are entitled to full justice,” says South African judge Richard J. Goldstone, who goes on to note that in real societies this is not, has not been, and will not be possible. Therefore, societies may need to find unconventional solutions in a continuing quest for justice. For historic wrongs, I argue in this essay, apologies are worth considering. (author's abstract)

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