The paradox of regret: Remembering and forgetting the history of slavery in George W. Bush's Gorée Island address

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Abstract

Ceremonial statements of regret from state actors may appear to lack discernible gains compared to historic procedures of reconciliation or political reunification; yet the ceremonial language of these statements influences public perceptions of historical justice, moral wisdom and democratic virtue. This essay analyzes President George W. Bush's historic address on the transatlantic slave trade as an excellent case study in the rhetoric of regret (distinct from that of official apology and the like). Such occasions warrant scrutiny because a critical paradox-the inherent divide between dutiful remembrance of past wrongs and practical political duties that would set them aright-shapes state officials' increasingly prevalent use of ceremonial lamentations in pursuit of geopolitical legitimacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-38
Number of pages34
JournalHistory and Memory
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History

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