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Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence First Edition Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807045060
ISBN-10: 0807045063
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Although mass atrocities are not unique to the 20th century, organized response to such violence has taken new forms, some of which offer hope of some small redress to the victims of war and genocide. In the groundbreaking and timely Between Vengeance and Forgiveness, Harvard Law School professor Martha Minow explores the benefits and drawbacks of a variety of forms of settlement.

For those who have recoiled in horror and outrage at collective violence in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, and elsewhere, this book--with chapters titled "Trials," "Truth Commissions," "Reparations," and "Facing History"--is a primer on how the world, and individuals, might respond to such acts once the shock subsides. Minow resists the idea that compensatory measures such as war-crimes tribunals and financial payback can ever bring true closure for those who have suffered. "Legal responses," she writes, "are inevitably frail and insufficient." Nevertheless, Minow advocates addressing these atrocities in a formal way: "The victimized deserve the acknowledgment of their humanity," she asserts, "and the reaffirmation of the utter wrongness of its violation." --Maria Dolan

From Kirkus Reviews

A leading legal scholar's judicious examination of our varied reactions to mass violence and their relative potential for healing people and nations. From the Holocaust to apartheid South Africa and Rwanda, 20th-century collective violence has challenged societies to deal with the aftermath. And Minow (Law/Harvard; Not Only for Myself, 1997) makes her own significant contribution to this effort by sketching out a ``lexicon of potential responses to collective violence.'' Through a series of chapters highlighting specific forms of responses in their historical contexts, she formalizes a vocabulary for assessing the ways in which society is able or unable to deal with irreversible loss (and the emotional damage caused by large-scale violence). First she contemplates the possibility of bridging reactions of vengeance and forgiveness, raising one of her central arguments: the healing power of therapy for victims, bystanders, and even offenders. In further chapters, she discusses the history of war-crimes prosecution, focusing on the complex legacies of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials following WWII, and reparations, drawing on the case of the US government and former Japanese-American internees. Minow's chapter on truth commissions proves to be the most engaging, given its timeliness amid the ongoing debates about South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Citing the importance of direct personal narratives, she argues that when society prioritizes healing and the restoration of human dignity, a truth commission may serve better than a prosecution actually does. Her final chapter assesses the value of public monuments, educational programs, and amnesty. Some readers will feel frustrated by Minow's admitted ``resistance to tidiness'' in drawing conclusions and by her rationalized tightrope walk between the extremes of idealism and cynicism. But this is a mostly enlightening exploration of a thorny subject. (For another look at these questions, see Wole Soyinka, The Burden of Memory, The Muse of Forgiveness, p. 1442.) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; First Edition edition (November 6, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807045063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807045060
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,027,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Sharlach on October 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
For anyone interested in international law or human rights, this is a must-read. I am assigning this book to my undergraduates this semester because, although the subject matter is complex, Minow's prose is clean and spare. Minow does a terrific job of summarizing the episodes of mass violence of the 20th century AND the literature in legal and political studies on war crimes, human rights violations, and justice. I don't always share her optimism that solutions can be found, but I cannot think of another author who grapples with this difficult subject matter quite as gracefully or comprehensively.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Martha Minow has done her research. She carefully explored the different approaches to mass violence without over-moralizing or answering any of the unanswerable questions. Drawing on history, she charts a course for the human rights community today. This is a readable book for people who are new to the concept of human rights and those who have phD's in the field. Best of all, it does not leave you with a feeling of a weight upon your shoulders. Instead, it is some-how optimistic about a future that addresses the mass violence. I underlined about half of this book, and would recommend it to anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. Maulden on May 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
Great book on a great issue by a great lawyer who can write. Of interest to anyone who cares about Vengeance vs. Forgiveness -- lawyers, people of faith (Christians), human beings. Here, it is applied to the international level, but many of the very same lessons to apply in our own personal lives. Yes, in our own personal lives. And yes, forgiveness is a long-unrecognized tool of international and personal peacemaking. Since we are unlikely to get much justice in this life, forgiveness is the best tool we have to resolve conflict and promote peace. It works. It's the LAW (NT). Gete busy out there and start forgiving. And start ASKING for forgiveness. Long overdue topic. Thanks. (And Martha's a friend/classmate of Sonia Sotomayor, new Supreme Court Justice. Woops, hope that doesn't jinx it.)
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By Nathan Edward Thomas on January 18, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
South Africa was a brave Nation that moved forward TOGETHER after being at war internally. Great read and thought in to how to bring former ememies together. Perfect no but a brave try.
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