Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

On the Aporetic Borderlines of Forgiveness: Bereavement as a Political Form

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

On the Aporetic Borderlines of Forgiveness: Bereavement as a Political Form

Article excerpt

This article focuses on representations of forgiveness as adopted or assumed by processes of collective amelioration experienced in the aftermath of mass atrocity. It seeks to demonstrate how each representative approach to forgiveness captures some of the torment, pain, and suffering of survivor and successor generations, but also that each fails to accommodate the depths and complexities of personal grief and collective mourning. Too often transnational justice in the aftermath of political evil becomes grounded in assumptions of justice, truth, and apology that are severely delimited. Such strategic and theoretical perspectives are insufficiently attuned to the needs of bereavement as a political form because they fail to promote social solace by means of collective atonement on the part of survivor and successor generations who inherit the legacies of sorrow. If political bereavement conducive to collective amelioration is to occur in any one polity, it should be legitimated by a transnational system of "transnational legacy sites," exclusively devoted to the designation, protection, and intercultural connection of all the many places where political evil may be said to have occurred. Keywords: Forgiveness, bereavement, grief, mourning, atonement, borderlines.

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Imagine entering a multiplex cinema complex. Each of the multiple theaters projects the ravages of civil conflict and/or mass atrocity, each surveys the outrages of consummate political evil characterized by widespread intense human violation. But each is framed by different versions and distinct visions. In this, we confront the initial question of representation, the borderlines between reality experienced through its depiction and reality portrayed by the very processes of its narration and visualization. We walk further on along the corridors connecting the cinematic spaces. A higher order of inquiry arises. Each film resonates with the dramaturgies of representation. But what is representation relative to the realities depicted? How is understanding shaped by representations of it? This opens up a second set of epistemological tensions regarding the representation of representation itself. This borders on a paradox that elevates the need to represent human reality while giving full recognition to the inevitability of failure. As Judith Butler observes, "for representation to convey the human, then, representation must not only fail, but it must show its failure. There is something unrepresentable that we nevertheless seek to represent, and that paradox must be retained in the representation we give." (1) Thomas Dumm refers to this as "the paradox of representation" and to the need to "embrace the idea of retaining the paradox as the core ethical task." (2) He asks, "But is retaining the paradox a task as much as it is an acknowledgement of the existential circumstances in which we find ourselves?" (3)

This article focuses on representations of "forgiveness" as adopted or assumed by processes of collective amelioration experienced in the aftermath of mass atrocity. How do grief, mourning, and bereavement become transfigured into languages of amelioration through the forgiveness discourses of "apology," "reintegration," "transformational justice," and "reconciliation"? How does traumatic suffering in collective society come to be represented by alternative approaches to "healing" in the years succeeding profound social suffering at the hands of sovereign governments or their agents? How do national populations, sectarian communities, segmented groups, or individual persons seek restorative return, political rehabilitation, and ameliorative recovery in the residues of mass atrocity and killing? How do they turn toward each other once widespread and intense violence and violation have disrupted group willingness to believe in the possibilities of personal security, social trust, political order, or national continuity?

My objective is to demonstrate how each representative approach captures some of the torment, pain, and suffering of survivor and successor generations. …

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