The Ethics of Apology A Set of Commentaries

Sage Publications Ltd
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Critique of Anthropology, 2009, 29 (3), pp. 345 - 366
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On 13 February 2008, the Australian government apologized to the 'stolen generations': those children of Aboriginal descent who were removed from their parents (usually their Aboriginal mothers) to be raised in white foster-homes and institutions administered by government and Christian churches - a practice that lasted from before the First World War to the early 1970s. This apology was significant, in the words of Rudd, for the 'healing' of the Australian nation. Apologizing for past injustices has become a significant speech act in current times. Why does saying sorry seem to be ubiquitous at the moment? What are the instances of not saying sorry? What are the ethical implications of this era of remembrance and apology? This set of commentaries seeks to explore some of the ethical, philosophical, social and political dimensions of this Age of Apology. The authors discuss whether apology is a responsibility which cannot and should not - be avoided; the ethical pitfalls of seeking an apology, or not uttering it; the global and local understandings of apology and forgiveness; and the processes of ownership and appropriation in saying sorry.
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