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Unchopping a Tree: Reconciliation in the Aftermath of Political Violence

by Ernesto Verdeja

Temple University Press, 2009


eISBN: 978-1-4399-0056-7

Cloth: 978-1-4399-0054-3

Paper: 978-1-4399-0055-0

About the Book
Political violence does not end with the last death. A common feature of mass murder has been the attempt at destroying any memory of victims, with the aim of eliminating them from history. Perpetrators seek not only to eliminate a perceived threat, but also to eradicate any possibility of alternate, competing social and national histories. In his timely and important book, Unchopping a Tree, Ernesto Verdeja develops a critical justification for why transitional justice works. He asks, “What is the balance between punishment and forgiveness?  And, “What are the stakes in reconciling?” 

Employing a normative theory of reconciliation that differs from prevailing approaches, Verdeja outlines a concept that emphasizes the importance of shared notions of moral respect and tolerance among adversaries in transitional societies. Drawing heavily from cases such as reconciliation efforts in Latin America and Africa—and interviews with people involved in such efforts—Verdeja debates how best to envision reconciliation while remaining realistic about the very significant practical obstacles such efforts face

Unchopping a Tree addresses the core concept of respect across four different social levels—political, institutional, civil society, and interpersonal—to explain the promise and challenges to securing reconciliation and broader social regeneration.
About the Author
Ernesto Verdeja is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

"Discussions of social reconstruction after political violence commonly expose the psychological and moral obstacles to forgiveness of perpetrators by victims. Ernesto Verdeja's Unchopping a Tree, in contrast, offers a sustained and clarifying analysis of respect and thus moves beyond forgiveness as the key to personal and political reconstruction after mass atrocities. The integration of personal narratives into the conceptual analysis makes this an especially valuable treatment of the daunting and demanding challenges for societies recovering from violence." 
Martha Minow, Harvard University, author of Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence

"I am greatly impressed by Unchopping a Tree. Ernesto Verdeja manages to synthesize an enormous amount of material into a clear and cogently argued framework to guide thinking about processes of reconciliation. He does an excellent job of presenting what he finds to be the strengths and weaknesses of the competing major approaches to this topic on the way to constructing and defending his alternative. His style is both pedagogic and clear-sighted. I think this will be an important work that makes a clear contribution to the literature." 
Ron Eyerman, Yale University, author of Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity

"Verdeja has written an excellent book that should be recognized as an important contribution to current debates on reconciliation. It provides a much-needed comprehensive and multilayered normative perspective, and it will be of great value to our global concern with the question of how societies can deal with an atrocious past." 
Thomas Brudholm, University of Copenhagen, author of Resentment’s Virtue: Jean Améry and the Refusal to Forgive

Politics History & Social Chan, Reconciliation, Tree, Aftermath, Human Rights, Ethics & Moral Philosophy, Philosophy, Political Science
Open Access Information

License: CC BY-NC-ND