Understanding the Psychology of Perpetrators through South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication
Introduction: Crimes of Allegiance
In July 1997, Captain Jeffrey Benzien sat before the Amnesty Committee of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and gave testimony about his illegal activities during apartheid. In the course of this testimony, Benzien provided extended accounts of his activities with the “terrorist tracking unit” of the South African Police, finding and...
1. Regarding Perpetrators: Studying Collective Violence
A fundamental question confronts any research psychologist interested in studying the problem of collective violence: How does one conduct meaningful behavioral research on violence? Historically, one approach has been to simulate collective violence within the confines of an experiment, with the two most prominent examples being the Milgram experiments...
2. Apartheid and Amnesty: Managing a History of Sustained Oppression
Apartheid was a sustained program of segregation imposed by South Africa’s ruling National Party to maintain control over the nonwhite population of South Africa and to preserve a privileged way of life for the white minority. Through a succession of laws from 1948 through the mid-1980s, the National Party strengthened and codified its subjugation...
3. Understanding Crimes of Allegiance: Patterns of Violent Influence
Any study of violent perpetrators confronts a fundamental paradox: the abundance of cruelty throughout human history and the absence of people who think of themselves as cruel. To help resolve this paradox and to account for systematic, widespread brutality, this chapter analyzes the testimony of violent perpetrators, identifying the influences and choices that...
4. Uncovering Truth: Confronting Perpetrators and Victims
The testimony given by perpetrators to the Amnesty Committee of the TRC revealed the kinds of explanations that people give when their very lives depend on perceived truthfulness. The perpetrators recounted their misdeeds to persuade others to grant them amnesty and to organize their past experiences so they could coexist with memories of their...
5. Reconciling Testimony: A Work in Progress
The most resonant conclusion about reconciliation from the amnesty hearings is as fraught as it is direct: sincere disclosure is necessary for reconciliation. In testimony after testimony, when victims and their families responded to the perpetrators during the amnesty hearings, they reiterated the need to know who perpetrated the destructive...
6. Beyond the TRC: Negotiating the Aftermath of Collective Violence
To focus solely on the deep and persisting societal divisions in South Africa today is to ignore the reverberating example set by the TRC as a national institution for gathering truth and promoting reconciliation after decades of violent conflict. Even with its setbacks and limitations, the TRC stands today as an enduring example of the potential for...
Conclusions: Learning from the Violence of Others
The amnesty hearings of the South African TRC provided an unprecedented opportunity to study perpetrators of political violence and the difficulties and intricacies of reconciling in the wake of this violence. The Amnesty Committee of the TRC granted complete amnesty to the violent perpetrators of apartheid South Africa in exchange for full...
About the Author
Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2014
OCLC Number: 879306210
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Violent Accounts