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11 novembre 2014: R. Niezen: Liberation from the Past

Ronald Niezen's book

Dottorato in Filosofia e Scienze dell’Uomo


Ronald Niezen (McGill University)

Liberation from the Past. Reflections on a Victim-Centred Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Stefano Allovio, Dipartimento di Filosofia, Università di Milano

Maria Sapignoli, Department of Law and Anthropology, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology


Martedì 11 Novembre 2014, ore 10,00

Sala Riunioni, Direzione del Dipartimento di Filosofia

Via Festa del Perdono 7, Milano


La conferenza sarà tenuta in inglese.

La partecipazione all’incontro è fortemente consigliata consigliata agli allievi della Scuola di Dottorato in Filosofia e Scienze dell’Uomo.



During the past twenty years or so, truth and reconciliation commissions (TRCs) have become a widely used as a way to overcome major international crimes committed by states toward their own citizens. Their goals are usually to better understand and come to terms with the past, with a focus on testimony provided by individual victims and perpetrators of harm, while supporting a new form of governance. This paper is based on a five- year ethnographic study of Canada’s current TRC on Indian residential schools, an assimilation-oriented system of education sponsored by the federal government and run by Churches over a period of more than a century. In this TRC, arriving at truth, achieving reconciliation, and above all creating a movement from truth to reconciliation are highly problematic. With a limited, victim-centred mandate, it shapes testimony through a preferred kind of narrative, producing an orthodoxy which then influences future testimony. Perpetrators are largely excluded by the mandate, leaving few means of achieving a sense of justice. Affirmation of the individual “survivors” who experienced harm is emphasized at the expense of a more complete understanding of the crimes and errors of the past. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to see current harms that are analogous to those of the schools or to reconcile those who see and experience the past differently.

11 novembre 2014
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