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

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

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

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.

Excerpt

In 1959, Theodor Adorno published the now-famous essay entitled “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit?” (“What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean?”). the essay opens with Adorno’s explanation of what “coming to terms with the past” had come to mean in postwar West Germany:

“Coming to terms with the past” does not imply a serious working through of the past, the breaking of its spell through an act of clear consciousness. It suggests, rather, wishing to turn the page and, if possible, wiping it from memory. (115)

In his essay Adorno draws the by-now familiar picture of postwar West Germany as a country firmly in denial of its Nazi past. Although the Adenauer government had officially recognized the nation’s responsibility for the Holocaust and had agreed to pay reparations to survivors, Germans privately sought to sidestep the question of the Holocaust as much as possible. Adorno observes that in the early years of postwar West Germany many of its key political figures were former Nazis, and certain Nazi ideas were still accepted as common truths, albeit ones that were not spoken publicly. Moreover, many people maintained a strong psychological investment in the ideas and leaders of the past, which leads Adorno to state that the West Germany of the late 1950s had not gone through a process of “serious working through,” a process that would help it liberate itself from what he calls the “spell” of the past. Rather than confronting its past . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.