Activist struggles for reparations from corporations: Do legal threats undermine the potential for reconciliatory dialogue in crisis communication?

TitleActivist struggles for reparations from corporations: Do legal threats undermine the potential for reconciliatory dialogue in crisis communication?
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Janssen, C. I.
Affiliation (1st Author)Deutsche Universitaet fuer Weiterbildung
Section or WGCrisis Communication Working Group
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeCRIW4a
Slot Code (Keyword)CRIW4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
RoomHG17
Session TitlePanel: Causing Crises and Navigating Political Struggle (s): Activists’ dilemmas between symmetry and asymmetry
Submission ID6489
Abstract

Submitted as individual abstract for the panel proposal "Causing Crises and Navigating Political Struggle(s): Activists’ Dilemmas between Symmetry and Asymmetry"The contribution discusses a central puzzle for activism concerned with justice for victims of historical injustices based on the example of reparations activism in the US. While freed slaves unsuccessfully fought for redress after the abolition of slavery, reparations remain an unresolved question until today. In a most recent turn, activists focused attention on corporate complicities with slavery. In 2000, the Restitution Study Group (RSG) coordinated lawsuits against corporations and caused crises for organizations from various industries such as insurance, financial, tobacco, and transportation. Engaging this case, the author argues that the asymmetrical strategy through the courts was indeed successful to pressure corporations to break their silence and to gain public attention for the issue. However, the focus on legal liability triggered highly defensive corporate responses, which undermined constructive ongoing discourse about the past; an important prerequisite for reconciliation (Doxtader, 2003; Hatch, 2006). The example of reparations activism thus highlights a central dilemma for activist rhetoric: How can activists put sufficient pressure on corporations to take responsibility for their past without closing the doors for symmetrical discourse beyond the court rooms? The author suggests that this tension cannot be resolved by activists alone, but that it requires a shift in corporate crisis rhetoric as well.ReferencesDoxtader, E. (2003). Reconciliation-A rhetorical concept/ion. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 89(4), 267-292.Hatch, J. B. (2006). Beyond apologia: Racial reconciliation and apologies for slavery. Western Journal of Communication, 70(3), 186 - 211.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer