More than a nice ritual

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Official apologies are public statements of regret presented in the name of collectivities such as nation states, governments, or religious institutions for wrongful actions in the past. This paper argues that we need a theoretical re-conceptualization of the genre in order to better understand its role in civic life. Regarding official apologies as an instantiation of rhetorical citizenship is more productive than regarding them as analogous to interpersonal apologies because they have less to do with forgiveness than commonly assumed. Rather, one of their main functions is to confront and argue about endoxa, commonly accepted opinions, and how they have been ignored or distorted in practice. In this way, official apologies have the potential to serve as an occasion and forum for public discourse on the norms and values informing that community at a given point in time.


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