Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence

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9780807045060: Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence

With Between Vengeance and Forgiveness, Martha Minow, Harvard law professor and one of our most brilliant and humane legal minds, offers a landmark book on justice and healing after horrific violence. Remembering and forgetting, judging and forgiving, reconciling and avenging, grieving and educatingMinow shows us why each may be necessary, yet painfully inadequate, to individuals and societies living in the wake of past horrors. She explores the rich and often troubling range of responses to massive, societal-level oppression. She writes of the legacy of war-crime prosecutions, beginning with the Nuremberg trials. She explores whether reparation - such as the monetary awards given to Japanese-Americans for internment during World War II, or art, such as Holocaust memorials - can be a basis for reconciliation after immeasurable personal and cultural loss. Minow also writes with informed, searching prose of the extraordinary drama of truth commissions in Argentina, East Germany, and most notably South Africa, and in the process delves into the risks and requirements involved in hearing from victims, the dynamics of gender, and the value of even imperfect gestures in the midst of these riveting experiments in justice and healing.

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Review:

Although mass atrocities are not unique to the 20th century, organized response to such violence has taken new forms, some of which offer hope of some small redress to the victims of war and genocide. In the groundbreaking and timely Between Vengeance and Forgiveness, Harvard Law School professor Martha Minow explores the benefits and drawbacks of a variety of forms of settlement.

For those who have recoiled in horror and outrage at collective violence in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, and elsewhere, this book--with chapters titled "Trials," "Truth Commissions," "Reparations," and "Facing History"--is a primer on how the world, and individuals, might respond to such acts once the shock subsides. Minow resists the idea that compensatory measures such as war-crimes tribunals and financial payback can ever bring true closure for those who have suffered. "Legal responses," she writes, "are inevitably frail and insufficient." Nevertheless, Minow advocates addressing these atrocities in a formal way: "The victimized deserve the acknowledgment of their humanity," she asserts, "and the reaffirmation of the utter wrongness of its violation." --Maria Dolan

About the Author:

Martha Minow is a professor of law at Harvard Law School. She is author of Making All the Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion and American Law and Not Only for Myself: Identity, Politics, and Law. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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