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Lubbe, T. (2000). ‘Being in the same boat’ victims, perpetrators and healers at the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Free Associations, 8(1):1-21.

(2000). Free Associations, 8(1):1-21

‘Being in the same boat’ victims, perpetrators and healers at the Truth & Reconciliation Commission

Trevor Lubbe


The Focal Point of this paper will be to describe to you a piece of work I undertook for the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa during April 1996. This involved facilitating a group of TRC staff during the first week of the public hearings. I would like to use this group experience to highlight some of the difficulties that arise in a specialised truth-seeking process of this kind, and in order to understand some of these difficulties I have drawn upon some ideas from psychoanalytic practice — which is also a truth-seeking enterprise of sorts, and which also brings in the past as part of its healing objective. Of course while analytic concepts can be used to illuminate other areas of inquiry it is also the case that terms like truth-seeking, forgiveness, reconciliation are not commonplace in psychoanalytic discourse, though the term reparation has some currency when discussing the aims of psychoanalysis.

As a background to this presentation I will be describing to you how this work came about and I shall also be presenting some testimony from the first hearings in Cape Town. In this sense I am appearing before you as a witness — as someone who has recorded something of my feelings, impressions and experiences while moving in and out of this truth-seeking process, both on a personal and professional level. The paper therefore will be more impressionistic in style than academic.

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