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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Community Reconciliation: An Analysis of Competing Strategies and Conceptualizations

van der Merwe, Hugo
June 4, 2015

Source: (1999) PhD dissertation, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University. Fairfax, Virginia. Downloaded 17 May 2004.

The central thesis of this dissertation is that reconciliation is a process that is subject to competing agendas, and that this contentiousness has implications for the legitimacy of community reconciliation initiatives. Rather than treating reconciliation as a process that can be impartially pursued by third parties in a conflict situation, this study problematizes the term through exploring how the concept of reconciliation is given different meanings by different stakeholders. The key tension examined in this study is between top-down and bottom-up conceptualizations of community reconciliation.
Through empirical research, it is argued that the different conceptualizations of reconciliation are based on a range of different experiences, interests and cultures, but are most effectively understood as competing ideological frameworks. Rather than acting as a force for greater social stability, the pursuit of reconciliation in the South African context is revealed as a process that highlights fundamental differences regarding values and goals of social order and inter-group relations held by different parties. By focusing on the issue of justice as a component of the reconciliation process, the study explores the competing justice strategies that arise from the varying ideological frames that characterized the debate about transitional justice and the TRC.
The empirical research focuses on the intervention role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the reconciliation processes of two communities in South Africa: Duduza and Katorus.
The research demonstrates that the approach of the TRC was one that was heavily weighted towards a top-down orientation to reconciliation at the national level which contrasted with the conceptualization of reconciliation by community members who view it as a process that should be oriented around local community dynamics. (excerpt from author’s abstract.)


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