The emergence of reconciliationas an empty universal in South Africa
in Discourse, normative change and the quest for reconciliation in global politics
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Chapter 2 looks at the early emergence of the discourse and reconstructs how reconciliation gained normative authority in the political sphere at all. It locates the beginning of this discourse in South Africa in the early 1990s, when the country transited from apartheid to democracy. In the course of the transitional negotiations ‘reconciliation’ was used by the antagonistic parties African National Congress (ANC) and National Party (NP) as a vague ideal which helped them to justify their various political demands and find a common reference point which made compromises possible. As chapter 3 shows, at this time reconciliation was not at all interpreted in terms of truth-telling or healing but was alternately related to political negotiations, compromise, power sharing or the release of political prisoners. It was only later, after the passing of the South African interim constitution in 1993 that the reconciliation ideal came to be firmly associated with the establishment of the South African TRC and the practices of truth-telling, healing and forgiveness. These constructions then remained relatively stable as they were reproduced throughout the workings of the TRC

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