Unsettling accounts: Confessional performances by perpetrators of past violence

Speaker: Leigh Payne

This talk will be based on Payne's book Unsettling Accounts: Neither Truth nor Reconciliation in Confessions of State Violence (Duke University Press, 2008). In that book, Payne argues that mechanisms such as South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission are touted as means of settling accounts with the past. She contends, in contrast, that public confessions by perpetrators of past state violence do not settle the past They are unsettling by nature. Rather than reconcile past violence, they catalyze contentious debate. She argues that this debate--and the public confessions that trigger it--are healthy for democratyic processes of political participation, freedom of expression, and the contestation of political ideas. The project draws on a performative and social interaction approach. Payne is in the process of extending this project to consider confessions from a different set of political actors involved in past violence: the revolutionary left. The talk will introduce this new project, currently titled Left Unsettled.