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Narrating political reconciliation: South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission

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Narrating Political Reconciliation advances a distinctive political discourse of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and provides the first book length theoretical interpretation of the social and political construction of truth and reconciliation in South Africa. Dr Moon situates the appearance of the TRC in 1995 at the juncture of then emerging national and international narratives of post-conflict reconciliation and democratization, and shows how these interacted (constrained and underpinned by the terms of the peace negotiations of 1991) to produce the norms, truth and reconciliation and practices, amnesty and truth-telling, that became central to the TRC's work. Moon enquires in detail into the politics and practice of national history writing by looking at the way in which the TRC reconstructed South Africa's apartheid past as a sequence of gross violations of human rights perpetrated with a political objective, thus transforming competing moral claims about this violent past into an "objective" technical discourse of violations. This construction, Moon argues, has particular implications for thinking about and ascribing agency and responsibility. Additionally, Narrating Reconciliation enquires into the politics and practice of confessional and testimonial styles of truth, and to the various ways in which these truths invoked the new political subjects of South Africa as 'victim' and 'perpetrator.' Moon also investigates the construction of reconciliation as both theology in relation to forgiveness and Judeo-Christian interpretations of it and therapy as a discourse of healing both the individual and the national body politic and the particular social and political implications flowing from these constructions. The book shows how South Africa's particular reconciliation narrative shaped and promoted the norms and practices central to a subsequent 'reconciliation industry,' now global in its reach (having been deployed in contexts as diverse as Ghana, Peru, Sierra Leone, and East Timor, to name a few), and to the appearance of a new human right, the 'right to truth.' The insights generated by the book provide a unique theoretical framework through which to think and problematise the politics of reconciliation, transitional justice, human rights, and nation-building in post-conflict and democratizing states more widely.

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