Emma Dolan on Political Apology

In this episode Rosie talks with Emma Dolan, a lecturer in Peace and Development Studies at the University of Limerick. Their conversation centres on Emma’s fascinating book ‘Gender and Political Apology: When the patriarchal state says “sorry”’ which was published by Routledge in 2022. The period since the 1990s has been characterised as the ‘age of apology’, reflecting the frequency and prominence of political apologies internationally. This is something we’ve witnessed in Ireland too through, for example the Taoiseach’s statement on Mother and Baby Homes in 2021 and UK PM David Cameron’s 2010 apology for Bloody Sunday. In the interview, Emma considers the diverse forms that political apologies can take and how complex or controversial they can become. Drawing on the work of Judith Butler and other feminist scholars, she explains how apologies are ‘performative’ ‘excitable’ and ‘gendered’, and why victims of violence or social harms can experience state apologies in contradictory and even troubling ways.

This is borne out in two case studies that Emma has researched in detail: the Japanese Government’s apologies for the treatment and sexual abuse of Korean ‘Comfort Women’ during World War 2; and official US responses to the infamous photos of US Military Police’s sexualised violence against detainees in Abu Ghraib prison during the occupation of Iraq. Emma weighs up the political value of state apologies for activists in Ireland and beyond who are seeking redress for injustices. And the interview closes with some reflections on her ongoing research into the politics and practices of commemoration and representation in relation to the British military.
Múscailt is a tortoise shack production. Support independent media at patreon.com/tortoiseshack

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