In the last decade, reconciliation, apology, and forgiveness have become omnipresent forces in the international political sphere. Since the Nuremberg trials, strict retribution is no longer the responsible method for dealing with atrocity. Reconciliation offers conflict resolution that redresses historical injustice by appealing to reparative models of justice aimed at healing the rifts between victims and perpetrators. In 2006, Canada became the latest country to adopt a state-sponsored process of reconciliation. The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established to “contribute to truth, healing and reconciliation” (“Schedule ‘N’”, 1) between Native and non-Native groups in Canada. This dissertation maps out the history of reconciliation as it is connected to Canada and identifies the ways in which the TRC facilitates and confounds conflict resolution in a colonial state. By critically analysing contemporary literature, film, politics and social movements, my dissertation develops a materialist approach to reconciliation via the ideas of “the call,” apology, reparation and forgiveness, applying these ideas to the lived experience (emotional, political, financial) that individuals and communities have to contend with in the reconciliatory process. In this dissertation I argue against those who suggest that the emergence of reconciliation in the modern era indicates that the international community is “returning to harmony” (Wagamese 134). As opposed to defining it as an indicator of burgeoning ethical politics, I suggest that “reconciliation,” particularly in how it is being articulated in settler states, is being deployed as a means to close off difference and contradiction and facilitate self-interest. As such, reconciliation must be approached as an ideological instrument rather than as “a potentially new international morality” (Barkan ix).
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Thesis advisor: McCall, Sophie
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