Theaters of Justice: Judging, Staging, and Working through in Arendt, Brecht, and Delbo

Synopsis

This book intervenes in the debate about the role of legal trials in collective processes of coming to terms with a history of mass violence. Through an analysis of philosophical and literary texts, Theaters of Justice raises the question of how the theatrical structure of a criminal trial both facilitates and limits national processes of healing and learning from the past. The book begins with the widely publicized, historic trials of three Nazi war criminals, Eichmann (1961), Barbie (1987), and Priebke (1998), which differed from the international tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo in that their explicit goal was not only to mete out punishment, but also to establish an officially sanctioned version of the past. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions established in South America and South Africa added a therapeutic goal to these political and didactic aims, acting on the belief that a trial can help bring about a moment of closure.