Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Professor Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann


In the aftermath of a period of mass violations of human rights, societies are left with a weakened social infrastructure, on top of a similarly weakened physical infrastructure. The "Politics of Acknowledgement" posits that a society must pass through several stages in its quest to right the wrongs of the past, and remedy the social problems, and explores the role of acknowledgement in the process of societal recovery. I argue that the process of acknowledgement is of particular important, forming a necessary but not sufficient condition in any successful process of societal recovery to allow the society to move forward. Acknowledgement can lead to forgiveness, which allows social trust and civic engagement to grow, all of which can lead to the development of civil society and, ultimately, democracy.

The thesis considers how the truth commissions of Uganda and Haiti were able to foster such acknowledgement. Both commissions were beset by a number of constraints. Chief among these was a lack of political will to see the commission successfully through. This led directly to the failure of the commissions. The commissions failed in securing the social capital, security, and funding required to complete their work in a timely fashion. The evidence shows the neither commission was able to foster any significant levels of acknowledgement. As a result, social trust and civil society simply did not develop, which compromised the development of democracy in both Haiti and Uganda.

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