n Acta Academica - Silence after violence and the imperative to 'speak out' - : introduction

Volume 47, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0587-2405


During the 1980s, a new dilemma emerged in various democratising nations, mostly in the global south : how should a repressive and violent past be dealt with in the context and as a constitutive part of democratisation?(Borneman 1997). The problem of the uses and abuses of the past in struggles over the public sphere has, of course, been around for centuries. The question arises : what was distinctly 'new' in this dilemma? As this special issue aims to show, historicising the ways in which societies have been grappling with legacies of systematic injustice and mass violence can provide a critical perspective on current certainties regarding how societies are to deal with a violent past. Since the 1980s, these attempts of a transition to 'normal' democracy have, to an ever-increasing extent, been informed by a logic of therapy that takes its cue from psychological understandings of trauma. This above all has rendered silence about past atrocities illegitimate, suspicious and, potentially, pathological.

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