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Reconciliation in Times of Impunity: Challenges for Social Justice

Opotow, Susan
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) Social Justice Research. 14(2): 149 to 170.

This paper describes the relevance of moral exclusion theory to conflict in which dehumanization and violence are normalized, and it argues that impunity is an urgent matter for psychology and social justice research. Impunity is supported by a moral framework that casts as appropriate violence directed at some people or groups. Work on moral exclusion provides a theoretical perspective on injustice, particularly on the social and psychological factors that support and exonerate harm-doing. Moral exclusion is a psychological orientation that views those excluded as psychologically distant from oneself; unworthy of constructive obligations; nonentities, expendable, and undeserving; and eligible for processes and outcomes that would be unacceptable for those inside the scope of justice. This paper discusses reconciliation in the context of impunity as a process which mediates a conflictual past with a desired peaceful future. Reconciliation can foster mutual respect and foster forgiveness, mercy, compassion, a shared vision of society, mutual healing, and harmony among parties formerly in conflict. This paper discusses the choice of a reconciliation process based on the particulars of a conflict. The author concludes with a discussion of social reconstruction and social research, as well as directions for research. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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