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Shame, sharing, and restorative justice: a critical appraisal

Harris, Nathan
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) In, Dennis Sullivan and Larry Tifft editors, “Handbook of Restorative Justice” A Global Perspective. London and New York: Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group pp.452-460

In this chapter, we will critically analyze the role of shame within restorative justice. We begin by reviewing the basics of reintegrative shaming theory (RST). Surprisingly the original formulation of the theory includes only a cursory discussion of what the emotion of shame even is. We turn next to the issue of defining shame, drawing on the psychological, sociological, and philosophical writing on the nature of shame, and attempting to distinguish it from related emotions such as guilt, humiliation, and embarrassment. Next, we look at the criticisms of RST, in particular those arguing that shame and shaming do not belong in restorative justice work. Finally, we conclude by seeking to salvage the notion of shaming within restorative justice, in particular, by drawing on the newer notion of ‘shame management’. We argue that the concept of shame is indeed a dangerous emotion, but rather than trying to avoid it (which is probably impossible), restorative justice interventions are well suited to the task of managing and working constructively with the shame that all parties experience in situations of crime and conflict. (excerpt)


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