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Overcoming Apartheid :: Can truth reconcile a divided nation?
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HSRC Press :: Overcoming Apartheid

Overcoming Apartheid
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Overcoming Apartheid

Can truth reconcile a divided nation?

James L Gibson

Format235mm x 160mm
ISBN 100-7969-2071-0
ISBN 13978-07969-2071-3
Publish Year2004
DescriptionRelated ProductsEmail To A FriendProduct RatingCustomer Reviews

Overcoming Apartheid :: Can truth reconcile a divided nation?Free DownloadOvercoming Apartheid :: Can truth reconcile a divided nation?

With the work of South Africaís Truth and Reconciliation Commission complete, James L Gibson sets out to test one of its key premises, namely, that truth can facilitate reconciliation and help a nation both to deal with its painful past and to move on to a more democratic future.

Drawing on one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of post-apartheid attitudes to date, and employing innovative conceptual and methodological tools, Gibsonís sophisticated and subtle analysis offers both encouraging and disheartening insights into the success of the truth and reconciliation process, and provides clear signposts for those involved in taking it further. This is a groundbreaking work of social science research and a major contribution to the literature on transitional justice and conflict resolution.
About the Author
Preface and Acknowledgments

1. Does Truth Lead to Reconciliation?

2. Apartheidís Legacy in Contemporary South Africa: Experiences, Attributes, and Attitudes of the Sample

3. South African Collective Memories

4. Interracial Reconciliation

5. Truth, Reconciliation, and the Creation of a Human Rights Culture

6. Tolerance: The Minimalist View of Reconciliation

7. Judging the Fairness of Amnesty

8. The Legitimacy of the Political Institutions of the New South Africa

9. Lessons for South Africaís Future and for the World

Appendix A: The Design of the Survey
Appendix B: The Questionnaire

About the Author/s

JAMES L. GIBSON is Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government at Washington University in St. Louis, fellow at the Centre for International and Comparative Politics and Professor Extraordinary in Political Science at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and Distinguished Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, South Africa.


Extract from review by Annalies Verdoolaege (Ghent University) in The Journal of Modern African Studies (Vol. 43 No. 3), September 2005:

"...Overcoming Apartheid provides some interesting insight into reigning attitudes in contemporary South Africa. The relation between truth and reconciliation is approached in a unique and individualised way. Since all of the decisions taken in the course of the research are clearly motivated and theoretically well founded, this personal touch does not harm the significance of this work."

Extract from a book review by Tom Lodge (University of the Witwatersrand), published in Politikon (May 2005), 32(1); 159-163:

"The reseach for this book was undertaken mainly through a nationwide survey in which 3,700 South Africans, representing a cross section of the national population at the end of 2000, answered a questionnaire that itself was the product of an extensive series of consultations with focus groups. Gibson claims with some justification that this exercise represents one of the most ambitious and technically accomplished efforts ever to sample public opinion in South Africa. Certainly the questionnaire itself was drafted with exceptional expertise and the data analysis was completed through the use of very sophisticated statistical techniques."

Reviewed by Nicolas Van De Walle, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2005

"Gibson's impressive book is an assessment of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which convened numerous public meetings between 1995 and 2000 to shed light on the human rights abuses of the apartheid era. Its larger purpose is to assess, with the help of attitudinal surveys, the progress of racial reconciliation and the legitimacy of the current regime. Non-specialists may find the survey research theorizing a bit technical at times, but Gibson provides a fascinating and nuanced explanation of how both white and black South Africans understand the country's historical failures and current attempts to rectify them. Fascinatingly, race alone does not explain all political attitudes in the country; often whites and blacks share similar attitudes, suggesting that a national identity may be in the process of emerging. At the same time, a majority of South Africans attribute disconcertingly little legitimacy to key national political institutions such as the legislature or the parliament."

Almost half of South Africans are 'somewhat' reconciled

Some 44% of South Africans are at least somewhat reconciled, according to a penetrating survey published this year on the Truth and the Reconciliation Commission. Click here for the full story.

Extract from review in Law and Politics Vol. 14 No. 11 (November 2004), pp. 912-915


Reviewed by Ayo Ogundele, Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University-Commerce. Email:

...not being very familiar with Professor James Gibson's earlier work on the subject, I thought this was going to be another normative or prescriptive volume - the type that waxes philosophically about a political/social phenomenon or prescribe a road-map for policymakers. Imagine my surprise upon finding out that this is not only a full volume of empirically-based research, but also one that focuses on what is arguably one of the most concerted institutionalized experiments in contemporary times: the attempt by South Africa to create a reconciled and unified society from the ruins of apartheid.


Pedagogically, this volume is a perfect text for courses in political psychology, but it can also be used as a supplemental reading in survey methods classes. And one last thing: if the reader can get past the several tables of statistical evidence in the volume, he or she would find a pleasant and readable text as well.

Click on the links below to read more the reviews:

The Star 17 August 2004

Cape Times 25 August 2004

Business Day 26 August 2004

Cape Argus 08 September 2004 # 1

Cape Argus 08 September 2004 # 2

Cape Argus 08 September 2004 # 3

Financial Mail 17 September 2004


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