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Patterns of intergroup conflict and the predicament of justice in South AfricaMohammad Salahuddin
South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and its widely publicized hearings on amnesty and human rights challenge us to understand the nature of the TRC's process, its effects, and outcomes in ways that relate to current critical inquiries in the social sciences and humanities. Using the texts and transcripts of the commission's East London hearings, I have examined how different groups and stakeholders at the truth commission of South Africa have come into conflict over traditional notions of truth, justice, rights, and reconciliation on one hand, and their legal or official definitions on the other. My conclusion is that much of intergroup conflict over these issues in post-apartheid South Africa is influenced by, and can be explained through, the ways local groups and political entrepreneurs interpret the recent South African past. This study shows that ordinary South Africans attach different meanings to the past and invoke competing interpretations of their common predicament. Contrary to the commission's assumptions and expectations, ordinary folks in post-Apartheid South Africa, who have lived all their lives under the law, are interested not in legal fictions of formal equality but in simpler ideals of social justice. This exploratory study makes no attempt to over-explain human action and communication as outcomes of interaction between variables in a causal sequence. Instead, it attempts to construct better accounts of agency in performance and the dynamics of situated will in human communication. Further, this study demonstrates how law and society interact, each shaping the other, in today's so-called globalized world; why people choose to use or avoid law; and how new elites in South Africa have appropriated and used folklore, tradition, and memory in order to form strategic alliances in international relations and build rapport with the new actors in the human rights regime.
Social sciences; Human rights; Law and society; Public history; History and myth-making; South Africa; Narrative and performance; Intergroup conflict; Justice; Truth and Reconciliation Commission; Folklore; Criminology; Social structure; Group dynamics; Criminal justice; 0700:Social structure; 0358:Folklore; 0627:Criminology
P. C. G. Parnell, Henry H.
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