Black History Month Spotlight: ‘The Impossible Machine’

by Kasie Pleiness on February 17, 2016


Throughout February, the University of Michigan Press will be featuring several titles for Black History Month.

In The Impossible Machine, Adam Sitze meticulously traces the origins of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) back to two well-established instruments of colonial and imperial governance: the jurisprudence of indemnity and the commission of inquiry. According to Sitze, “The point of construing the TRC as an ‘impossible machine’ is to accept, as a point of departure for the analysis of the TRC, the falsity of the antithesis between miracle and fraud, between enchantment with the TRC and disenchantment with it.” Sitze asserts that the TRC’s genius lies not with the substitution of “forgiving” restorative justice for “strict” legal justice, but rather in the innovative adaptation of colonial law, sovereignty, and government. The Impossible Machine proposes a provocative new means by which South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be understood and evaluated.

“Beautifully written and engaging to read . . . the book will be a significant contribution to the corpus of political, legal, and philosophical work on transitional justice and postcolonial justice more generally, will have a wide audience and is likely to reshape the field of transitional and postcolonial justice studies.” —Fiona Ross, University of Cape Town

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