The call for “care and repair” that is raised in many fields seems to run up against clear limitations when it comes to conceptions of history or to its after-effects. It is not just that it is clearly impossible to revert to some situation in which historical injustice, not to mention catastrophes throughout the course of history, are simply erased. In addition, calls for reparation and reconciliation in many cases lead to subsequent attempts at correction that change little or nothing ideationally about the initial scenarios. The desire for “reparation”, which is meant to cover a broad spectrum ranging from actual redress to healing of (physical and psychological) wounds, seems highly legitimate in this context. At the same time, however, it also touches on problematic aspects such as a historical perspective that is frequently only partial, acts of historical intervention that inevitably often come too late or the attribution of a certain victim status to entire ethnic groups. Recently, the debate about historically extended injustice and corresponding reparations has once again become more explosive as a consequence of continuing racist violence, the toppling of statues and similar attacks on monuments, and the erasure of tainted historical symbols and names. Within this context, the historical nexuses of colonialism, slavery and tyrannical regimes and their aftermath in the present are indubitably also being addressed. However, it remains questionable whether this will lead to a fairer status quo, or even to a more emancipated future. That is reason enough to raise critical questions about the enduring processes that are intended to bring about historical corrections. And it is also reason enough to enquire about the conditions for genuinely viable historical reparation(s).
Date of publication: 15th March 2021