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Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence [Paperback]

Martha Minow
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 1999
The rise of collective violence and genocide is the twentieth century's most terrible legacy. Martha Minow, a Harvard law professor and one of our most brilliant and humane legal minds, offers a landmark book on our attempts to heal after such large-scale tragedy. Writing with informed, searching prose of the extraordinary drama of the truth commissions in Argentina, East Germany, and most notably South Africa; war-crime prosecutions in Nuremberg and Bosnia; and reparations in America, Minow looks at the strategies and results of these riveting national experiments in justice and healing.

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Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence + Centuries of Genocide: Essays and Eyewitness Accounts + Order of Genocide: Race Power and War in Rwanda
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From Amazon

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
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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5.0 out of 5 stars An exercise in the problems of mass violence July 2 2000
By A Customer
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here is a lady who is not afraid to tackle the big issues. Oct. 16 2000
By Lisa Sharlach - Published on Amazon.com
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.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exercise in the problems of mass violence July 2 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, thoughtful book May 27 2009
By H. Maulden - Published on Amazon.com
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.)
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad! March 17 2014
By Article - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought the book for my conflict Resolution class. I find Minow's approach to transitional justice very feminine. I am not sure I will re-read it
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History Sept. 25 2010
By Carmen Magda - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Book is in a very good condition, it was a good service. It was a book required in a Seminar of Law and Justice in Law School of Indianapolis
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