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Apology: Its Role in Political and Social Life

40th Social Research Conference

April 2 - 3, 2020

REGISTER HERE

 

 

In this moment of political turmoil in the United States and abroad, characterized by a great many people with a great deal to apologize for, by many apologies being made and many that should be made but are not, we announce the 40th Social Research conference on Apology that will take place in the spring of 2020 at The New School. The conference focuses on public apologies in the political or social realm, rather than on private apologies between individuals.

 

The range of questions this theme raises is wide, including: What is the value or consequence of an apology from a politician? (e.g, Hillary Clinton apologizing for describing some of the electorate as “deplorables”; or Donald Trump refusing to apologize for anything at all.) What is the impact of apologies on historical wrongs? (e.g., US apologizing and compensating people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated during World War II; Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa.) Why do some states apologize and others do not? Are institutional policies for addressing reports of sexual abuse effective? (e.g., Pope Francis’s motu propio policy to hold the clergy accountable for misconduct in allegations of sexual abuse.) When someone is accused of sexual misconduct, under what circumstances might apologies be effective? (e.g., the wave of sexual misconduct allegations and global reckoning forced into public discussion by the #MeToo movement.) Are reparations, or other forms of redress effective in righting or mitigating historical wrongs? In 2017 former Congressman John Conyers sponsored H.R. 40, a measure with the stated goal to “address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies…and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery…and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans.” In June 2019, the U.S. Congress held its first hearing in a decade to discuss a bill that would create a commission to discuss the enduring legacy of slavery and the role of reparations in addressing what many call the “original sin.” Clearly, reparations for past atrocities are front and center in U.S. political life.

 

Guilt, accountability, and forgiveness all play a role in apology, both in cases where actors recognize their culpability, (e.g., former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski urging fellow Poles to beg for forgiveness for Jedwabne pogrom in which as many as 1,600 Jews were murdered by their civilian neighbors), and in cases where they do not, (e.g., Harvey Weinstein denying the accusations of over 80 women in the film industry; Myanmar to the Rohingyas, Israel to the Palestinians; Corporate-caused disasters, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill).

 

This conference brings together experts from a range of disciplines, including historians, policy makers, the clergy, the law and the courts to examine the role of apology in social and political life, and how and when apologies make a difference.

 

REGISTER HERE

CONFERENCE PROGRAM


Day 1: Thursday, April 2, 2020

 

Session I. Apology in the Public and Political Domains

3:30-5:30 PM

Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Auditorium

66 West 12th Street, 10011

A106

    

Fr. Michael Lapsley, Director, Institute for Healing of Memories

 

Elazar Barkan, Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs

 

John Torpey, Presidential Professor of Sociology and History, and Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, CUNY Graduate Center

 

Pablo de Greiff, Transitional Justice Program Director, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, New York University

 

Moderator: Jeremy Ginges, Associate Professor of Psychology, The New School

 

 

Keynote Event

6:00-7:30 PM

Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Auditorium

66 West 12th Street, 10011

A106

 

TBA

 

                                       

                                         Day 2: Friday, April 3, 2020

 

Session II. Case Studies: United States

10:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Arnhold Hall

55 West 13th Street, 10011

I202

 

Nancy Gertner, Judge, USDC Massachusetts (retired); Senior Lecturer, Harvard Law School

 

Peter Steinfels, former editor, Commonweal; former religion writer, The New York Times; University Professor Emeritus, Fordham University

 

Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Columbia Law School

 

Margo Anderson, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

 

Moderator: John Torpey,Presidential Professor of Sociology and History, and Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, CUNY Graduate Center

 

 

Session III. Case Studies: International

1:00-3:00 PM

Hirshon Suite

55 West 13th Street, 10011

I203

 

Jan Gross, Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society, emeritus; Professor of History, emeritus, Princeton University

 

Rena Steinzor, Edward M. Robertson Professor of Law, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

 

Ahmed Bawa, Chief Executive Officer, Universities South Africa

 

Moderator: Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies; Director of Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, The New School

BIOGRAPHIES

 

 

Fr. Michael Lapsley, Director, Institute for Healing Memories

 

Father Michael is a South African Anglican Priest, social justice activist, and the Director of the Centre for Healing of Memories in Cape Town, South Africa. Father Michael was an active anti-apartheid activist and acted as Chaplain for multiple universities. He also acted as the Chaplain of the Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture in Cape Town, which participated in assisting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in its work. 

 

Elazar Barkan, Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs

 

Elazar Barkan is Professor of International and Public Affairs and Columbia University, the Director of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy Concentration, and the Director of Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. Professor Barkan’s research focuses on human rights, and his work seeks to achieve conflict resolution and reconciliation between differing and opposing sides of conflict in order to create shared narratives across political divides, and to turn historical dialogue into a tool of political reconciliation. 

 

John Torpey, Professor of Sociology and History/Director, Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, CUNY Graduate Center 

 

John Torpey is Professor of Sociology and History, and is Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center, CUNY. His work addresses the impact and role of the state in shaping modern social life, the origins of world religions, the changes in the nature of warfare in the contemporary world, and the idea of American exceptionalism. 

 

Pablo De Greiff, Director, Transitional Justice Program, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, New York University

 

Pablo De Greiff is the Director of the Transitional Justice Program at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the School of Law, New York University. In 2012, he was selected by the UN Human Rights Council to be Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. His research centres around transitions to democracy, democratic theory, and the relationship between morality, politics, and law. 

 

Jeremy Ginges, Associate Professor of Psychology, New School for Social Research

 

Jeremy Ginges is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the New School for Social Research. His work explores intergroup dynamics in areas of conflict, cross-cultural values and moral reasoning, and their impacts on political violence. His work uses controlled field experiments to understand the cultural boundaries and incentives that feed into the choice between cooperation and conflict. 

 

 

 

Judge Nancy Gertner (Ret.), Judge, USDC Massachusetts (retired); Senior Lecturer, Harvard Law School

 

Judge Nancy Gertner is a former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. She was the 2008 recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association, Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and was a Leadership Council Member of the International Center for Research on Women. She is now a part of the faculty of the Harvard Law School teaching criminal law, criminal procedure, forensic science and sentencing, and continues to write about women’s issues around the world. 

 

Peter Steinfels, former editor, Commonweal; former religion writer, The New York Times; University Professor Emeritus, Fordham University

 

Peter Steinfels is a journalist and educator who held a twenty-year-long column, “Beliefs”, in the religion section of the New York Times. Peter Steinfels was also a former editor of Commonweal magazine, a professor emeritus of religion and ethics professor at Fordham University, and was co-director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture. He is the author A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.

 

Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Columbia Law School

 

Katherine Franke is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University, the director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, and the Faculty Director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project. Katherine Franke is also a member of the Executive Committee for the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, as well as the center for Palestine Studies. Her work centers on law, religion, and rights, using feminist, queer, and critical race theory.

 

Margo Anderson, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

 

Margo Anderson is a Distinguished Professor of History and Urban Studies, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is the former president of the Social Science History Association. Margo Anderson is known for her work as a social historian and historian of statistics, including the US Census. Her research specializes in American social, urban, and women’s history.

 

 

Jan Gross, Norman B. Tomlinson ’16 and ’48 Professor of War and Society, emeritus; Professor of History, emeritus, Princeton University

 

Jan Gross is a Professor of History, War and Society at Princeton University. His research centers around modern Europe, looking at totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, Soviet and East European politics, and the Holocaust. His 2001 book Neighbors was a finalist for the National Book Award, and he has written and published several other books both in English and Polish. He has taught at NYU, Emory, Yale, as well as at universities in Paris, Vienna and Krakow.  

 

Rena Steinzor, Edward M. Robertson Professor of Law, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

 

Rena Steinzor is the Edward M. Robertson Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. She is a past president of the Center for Progressive Reform, a network of scholars acting to protect health, safety, and the environment. She is the author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction. 

 

 

Ahmed Bawa, Chief Executive Officer, Universities South Africa

 

Ahmed Bawa is the Chief Executive Officer of Universities South Africa. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, the Academy of Science of South Africa, and has acted as board chair of the Foundation for Research Development. Ahmed Bawa has taught and represented many prestigious universities, and was an inaugural member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation. 

 

Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies; Director of Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, The New School

 

Elzbieta Matynia is a Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies at the New School for Social Research. She is also the director of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, where she develops and directs international Democracy and Diversity Institutes for cross-cultural research. She is the author of Performative Democracy, and An Uncanny Era: Conversations between Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik. 


 

 

ABSTRACTS

 

Session I. Apology in the Public and Political Domains

 

Fr. Michael Lapsley

 

Elazar Barkan

Exploring the global politics of restitution and negotiating historical injustices from 1945 to the present

Exploring the tension between apologies and reparations in different cases raises the question of what does justice look like? Can an apology be adequate to provide redress? And if not, why do all victims demand acknowledgment? In most cases, when victims reject apologies, it is because the apology is insufficient, not that they do not want/deserve an apology. Apology is essential for victims, so the question is what role apology plays in redress. 

 

John Torpey

Rejuvenating Reparations

My talk will address the resurgence of talk about reparations for African-Americans during the Trump presidency and the character of the discussion. I will argue that the debate has been positive in certain respects, returning the subject to the forefront of public debate, but that the discussion has been unhelpfully polarizing as well.

 

Pablo de Greiff

Apologies, Recognition, and Norm Affirmation

 

Session II. Case Studies: United States

 

Nancy Gertner

Proportionality and MeToo

 

Peter Steinfels

Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse: Apologies on Trial 

 

The scandal of Catholic clergy sexually abusing young people first came to widespread attention in the late 1980s; made prime-time news and page-one headlines in the mid-1990s; hit a crescendo in the U.S. in 2002, and continues to erupt throughout global Catholicism.  Church leaders have issued countless apologies for these life-shattering acts, for failures to prevent them, and for instances of outright complicity in them.  These apologies have come from three popes and hundreds upon hundreds of bishops, many in public rituals of repentance. But it is not at all clear whether these apologies have healed the wounds of victims or embittered their suffering; whether these apologies have enlightened Catholics or alienated them.  This presentation will try to explore why. 

 

Katherine Franke

The Role of Apology in Reparations for Slavery

As the call for reparations for slavery gains wider traction in the United States, what role, if any, should apology play in repairing the intergenerational legacy of slavery? Some regard it as a necessary, but not sufficient element in reparations, while others consider an apology an insult. Professor Franke will explore the political and moral relevance of apology in ongoing organizing around reparations for slavery.

 

Margo Anderson

The Census and Apology

In March 2000, Census Director Kenneth Prewitt, in a public statement, apologized for the role the bureau played in the evacuation and incarceration of Japanese ancestry Americans on the West Coast during World War II. The apology came a decade after the formal letter of “sincere apology” that was mandated in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and which President Bush and later President Clinton provided to surviving internees with their redress payments. This talk will examine the events that led to the Census Bureau apology, in the context of the overall history of the incarceration.

 

Session III. Case Studies: International

 

Jan Gross

The Case of Poland and the Jews

This talk will examine the form and logic of Polish apologies addressed to Jews for anti-Jewish violence during World War II.

 

Rena Steinzor

Corporate Malfeasance and Meaningless Apologies

Tragedies caused by corporate negligence have dominated the headlines since industrialization began. Their scale, like the scale of everything else, has expanded substantially in modern times. From the Boeing 747 crashes to the BP and Transocean Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill to the collapse of Massey Energy's Big Branch mine to VW and Fiat Chrysler emissions cheating, apologies are made but do not assuage the public's outrage, in large measure because remedies are delivered in the context of government enforcement. Several themes link all these fatal incidents: the company was in a tremendous hurry to push a product out the door or enhance its economic stature by becoming the biggest in the world; internal culture rewarded compliance with these goals and did not tolerate interference; mid-level and higher managers became immune to the slow but steady erosion of safety standards--in other words, deviance was normalized; executives were overly tolerant of risk, despite repeated examples of multi-billion dollar fiascos experienced by competitors; and the regulatory system meant to prevent these problems was, quite literally in tatters. Until we unwind these negative incentives, apologies will be meaningless and the public will remain unprotected.

 

Ahmed Bawa

Looking backwards to look forwards – the role of the apology in shaping a new future for South Africa’s people

It will be left to newer generations to shape the values, ethics and instruments for the construction of such a future. The question is whether there will be a role for the apology for past injustices and who will be expected to make it. Is South Africa able to follow the direction of time as it contemplates new solutions to its future without seeking to repair its past?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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