Source: (2012) Security Dialogue 43(1) 43–60.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, there has been growing academic interest in the speech act of apology. Both the nature of apologetic communicative processes and the potential of apologies to promote reconciliation remain, however, under debate. The aim of this article is to map common types of rituals found in what is termed ‘the age of apology’, to identify the processual and structural characteristics of these rituals, and to understand their contribution to restoring relations in the global arena. The analysis yields three types of rituals of apology: purification – that is, asymmetrical rituals in which the offender issues an apology in order to purify his or her dismal past but does not necessarily need the approval of an offended party; humiliation – that is, asymmetrical rituals in which the offended party forces the offender to participate in a degradation ritual as a condition for closure; and settlement – that is, symmetrical rituals in which both sides strive to restore relations. The theoretical and practical implications of these rituals are discussed. (authors' abstract)