Apology is a start: Nicholas B. Murphy, Apology and Reconciliation in Settler States, PhD dissertation, University of Western Ontario, 2020


Abstract: This dissertation offers a normative account of how we should conceive of reconciliation between Indigenous people(s), states qua states, and their non-Indigenous citizens. It mines pre-theoretic understandings of reconciliation to determine appropriate governing norms for reconciled relationships, the normative expectations that attend these, and what processes or initiatives might be necessary to achieve them. In liberal democratic settler states like Canada, Australia, the United States and New Zealand the desirability of reconciliation is acknowledged by all parties. However, considerable ambiguity surrounds the concept ‘reconciliation.’ This is problematic because concepts influence social discourse, and the rhetoric of reconciliation not only guides public policy by prioritizing some goals over others, it also influences the process of building healthy relationships by demarcating the contours of this discourse. This makes the need for clarity with respect to the concept acute. Yet a priori judgements about the content of reconciliation are unwarranted in intercultural political contexts. Accordingly, this work takes as its first point of reference an intriguing instrument of reconciliation almost universally thought to be involved in the process: official apology for historical and enduring injustices perpetrated by settler states against Indigenous people(s). In the broadest terms, the project offers something akin to a transcendental argument: if apology of this kind is involved in reconciliatory projects, what does its use say about the process and aims of reconciliation? Chapter 1 explores how to make sense of official apology for historical and enduring injustice by grounding contemporary nonIndigenous citizens’ reparative responsibilities in the context of reconciliation. Chapter 2 delves into official apology, asking what it should look like, from whom it should come, and what it should aim to do. Chapter 3 sheds light on the process of reconciliation by examining the means by which the goals of apology can be promoted through substantive initiatives that simultaneously demonstrate apologetic sincerity. Finally, chapter 4 offers necessary conditions for reconciliation as an outcome. It argues that since apology seeks both to circumscribe the range of reasonable interpretation of history and to enact or engender reciprocal attitudes or respect and trust, so too should these elements feature in any defensible conception of reconciled relationships in the settler state context.

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