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Reconciliation and the Public/Private Distinction. The Role of Victims and Beneficiaries in South Africa’s TRC

Nagy, Rosemary
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) Paper prepared for delivery at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Hilton San Francisco and Towers. August 30-September 2, 2001.

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has been the largest, most public, and best funded truth commission to date. Hence, it has gained much attention. Additionally, it has been noteworthy because it sought not only truth but reconciliation. It has been touted as a model for other countries in similar contexts. For these reasons, says Rosemary Nagy, careful attention should be given to the ways in which the TRC pursued national reconciliation. She asserts that reconciliation should involve the reconstruction of a strong public/private distinction because that distinction was egregiously violated under apartheid. To make this case, Nagy argues for an understanding of privacy as inviolate personality. She then contends that the TRC blurs the distinction between public and private in its emphases on forgiveness, healing the nation, and heroism. Thus Nagy concludes that the TRC fails to redress adequately the injustices of the past.


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