Between Resentment and Forgiveness: Public Histories in the Czech and South African Transitions
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Departing from the recent scholarship that acknowledges fundamental similarities in the post-colonial and the post-socialist experiences, the article argues that comparisons across these two contexts and paradigms prove themselves to be a useful tool for analysis of specific problems of transitioning societies. This claim is demonstrated by examination of the making of public history of the recent past in the Czech Republic and South Africa. Two authoritative aspects of public history are considered: the state-sanctioned commemoration and historiography. Whereas the South African state has sought by the means of transitional justice to reconcile the former victims and victimizers in a shared quest for the truth, the Czech state prioritizes legislative and judiciary assignment of retroactive blame. The South African historiography is closely tied to collective memory and prefers the approach of social history. The Czech historiography of the recent past is dominated by the totalitarian paradigm and prioritizes archival work. In both cases, the political and the historiographical projects seem to overlap in crucial points. It is suggested that the articulation of public history as either resentment or forgiveness may have been ultimately predetermined by the forms of resistance to the oppressive regimes.
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