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Irreconcilable times

Mookherjee, Nayanika

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In Denktagebuch (Thought diary, 1950-73), Hannah Arendt wrote that acts which cannot be forgiven are beyond punishment and hence cannot be reconciled to. In this essay, I draw from Arendt to further theorize and extend the concept of irreconciliation. I draw together ethnographic material, historical material, documents, media reports, and reviews during this era of irreconcilability which includes Black Lives Matter; the memorialization debates on the removal of statues of enslavers; the history of slavery in the United Kingdom; and the ‘harmony ideology’ experienced by BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) academics within UK organizations linked to long-term discrimination. I argue for the concept of irreconciliation as a bulwark against impunity, against a ‘window-dressed’, symbolic performance of redress, and to be able to echo Arendt's words that ‘this’ – any original cause of injustice – ‘ought never to have happened’.


Mookherjee, N. (2022). Irreconcilable times. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 28(S1), 153-178.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 4, 2022
Online Publication Date May 20, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Jun 28, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 29, 2022
Journal Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Print ISSN 1359-0987
Electronic ISSN 1467-9655
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue S1
Pages 153-178
Public URL


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Copyright Statement
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Anthropological Institute.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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