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“Political Reconciliation Through a Struggle for Recognition?”

Schaap, Andrew
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Social & Legal Studies. 13(4): 523–540.

In societies divided by a history of political violence, political reconciliation depends
on transforming a relation of enmity into one of civic friendship. In such contexts,
the discourse of recognition provides a ready frame in terms of which reconciliation
might be conceived. Yet social theorists are divided in their assessment of the emancipatory
potential of the struggle for recognition. For Charles Taylor, it establishes
the possibility of reconciliation through a reciprocal dialogue oriented towards a
fusion of horizons. Yet Frantz Fanon highlights the violent appropriation inherent in
the logic of recognition that curtails the possibility of reconciliation. I demonstrate
that Taylor’s optimism about the possibility of reconciliation through a struggle for
recognition is unwarranted. For, although recognition provides the rough ground in
terms of which an ethical encounter between former enemies becomes possible, it
tends to fix the terms on which a reconciliatory politics might be enacted in a way
that reduces the prospect of community between them. This argument is developed
through a consideration of the legal-politics of reconciliation in Australia. But against
Fanon’s pessimism, I advocate an agonistic reconciliation, according to which political
actors would indefinitely postpone the moment of positive recognition while staking
the prospect of community on the non-identity of the other, i.e. that quality in the
other that cannot be reduced to the terms of identity or otherness.


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