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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2009, Vol.1, No.1 .

Reparations: Interdisciplinary Inquiries
Jon Miller and Rahul Kumar (eds.)

(Oxford University Press, New York, 2007)
342pp, 55.00, ISBN-13: 978-0-19-929991-1

In this volume, key international scholars from law, politics, economics, political science, history, psychology and philosophy offer an investigation into reparations. Elazar Barkan?s abstract conceptual framework introduces this inquiry by providing an insight into the wide range of existing historic injustices and the theoretical dilemmas of redressing them. Thereafter, the book is arranged into four parts. These explore different modules of reparations, namely those concerning indigenous peoples, the legacy of slavery in the United States, colonialism and those involving victims of war and conflict. It is helpful that examinations of each topic include both theoretical debates and discussions on real case studies. Unfortunately, what is termed a conclusion introduces new issues instead of summarising the peculiarities and common features of each of the four reparations modules around which the volume has been structured.

Nonetheless, all sections of this volume will be a useful and stimulating read for all those who are interested in the study of the reparatory programmes or policies that may be adopted in the aftermath of war, an authoritarian regime, and/or ethnic conflict. In the aftermath of ethnic conflict, scholars and practitioners often tend to focus on injustices of the immediate past. Yet the legacies of slavery and colonialism as well as the concerns of indigenous people are often salient features of an ethnic conflict. Thus, I regard parts II and IV, when read in conjunction with Barkan?s exposition on the limits of redress (4-6) as the book?s greatest strengths, as they make a major contribution to the topic. These sections candidly address complex questions that scholars often deliberately ignore.
Another axiomatic strength of this work is that it is an interdisciplinary inquiry which unifies knowledge. The editors, Jon Miller and Rahul Kumar state that the unification of disciplines was pertinent in view of the complex issues which must be considered in any credible work on the topic. They group these difficult questions into four broad clusters. These are as follows: the question of the identity of perpetrators and victims; what constitutes appropriate reparations; the link between reparatory programmes and other social justice goals; and the issue of what is the broad objective of reparations. However, whilst their understanding has its merits, the approach negates the advantages of specialisation, which is often a catalyst for an increase in expertise on any field. Nevertheless, the volume provides a ?portrait of reparations? that might inform further specialised research on the nuances identified.

Dr. Khanyisela Moyo, Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster

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