Public apologia, moral transgression and degradation ceremonies

2013-01-31T12:14:28Z (GMT) by Cristian Tileaga
This paper discusses some socio-psychological aspects of reconciliation with the recent communist past in eastern Europe using the example of a public apologia of a Romanian public intellectual on his alleged collaboration with the Securitate, the former communist secret police. In order to address these issues, data are drawn from a wider project investigating the social construction of the communist/post-communist past in talk and text (Tileagă 2009a, b; 2011, 2012a, b; in press). The paper argues that public apologia for wrongdoing displays a double dynamic of degradation: personal and institutional. It is argued that public apologia serves a two-fold function: on one hand, it is an attempt to manage a personal ‘spoiled’ identity and provides the grounds for atonement. On the other hand, it is an attempt to (re)write biography by elucidating the influence of the wider social context relevant to identity transformation. By drawing on sociological work on degradation ceremonies and discourse analysis in social psychology the paper shows how public apologia can be understood as a social product and discursive accomplishment.