Ethics of Apology open meeting

ASA 2008, Auckland, Tuesday 9th of December, 12.15 -1.30 pm

On 13th 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 governments 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. The issue of saying sorry and apologising 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 open meeting sought to explore the ethical, philosophical, social and political dimensions of this age of apology.

What are the ethical pitfalls of seeking apology or not uttering it? What are the various global and local understandings of apology and forgiveness? What are the processes of ownership and appropriation of saying sorry? These and other questions were discussed in this open meeting chaired, organised and convened by Nayanika Mookherjee, the Ethics Officer of ASA. It was led by a group of panellists: Prof. Gillan Cowlishaw (University of Technology, Sydney), Prof. Ghassan Hage (Melbourne University), Dr. Lisette Josephides (Queens University Belfast), Prof. Nigel Rapport (St. Andrews University) who spoke for ten minutes before opening it up for interesting discussions, questions and comments.

The following are the published proceedings of this meeting:

Mookherjee, Nayanika 2009. The Ethics of Apology Open Meeting at the joint international conference of the ASA, the ASAANZ and the AAS, Auckland, 9 December 2008. Anthropology Today. June 2009, Vol 25:3. Link

Mookherjee, Nayanika 2009. Editor. Ethics of Apology: A Set of Commentaries. Critique of Anthropology: 24.3, September 2009. Contributions by Dr. Nayanika Mookherjee, Prof. Nigel Rapport, Prof. Lisette Josephides, Prof. Gillian Cowlishaw, Prof. Ghassan Hage, Dr. Lindi Todds: 345-366. PDF.