The Anatomy of Apology and Forgiveness: Towards Transformative Apology and Forgiveness

Joram Tarusarira*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
90 Downloads (Pure)


The central thesis of this article is that while apology and forgiveness are vital for dealing with a violent past, there is a need to critically transform the sociopolitical epistemic subjectivities that underpin a wrongdoing. These include political discourses, narratives, ideas and ideologies that justified the wrongdoing in the first place and are thus its bedrock. This is against the understanding that brutality and violence are sustained by particular epistemologies, logics and reasonings. Failure to bring about their transformation results in not stopping the repetition of brutality and not realizing sustainable reconciliation, as well as stifling key aspects of dealing with the past, such as truth seeking, truth telling, justice and accountability. By drawing on the state-sponsored massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s – the Gukurahundi massacres – this article argues that current calls for, and implementations of, apologies and forgiveness are often undertaken without considering the need to transform the epistemic bedrock of conflict and violence which engenders apology and forgiveness. This lack of focus on transformation makes apology and forgiveness susceptible to abuse or underutilization, and thus impotent in facilitating sustainable reconciliation. The article emphasizes the need to transform the cognitive and epistemic subjectivities underpinning wrongdoing, thus making a case for transformative apology and forgiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-224
Number of pages19
JournalInternational journal of transitional justice
Issue number2
Early online date9-Apr-2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2019


  • Apology
  • forgiveness
  • reconciliation
  • transformation
  • Zimbabwe

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