Reparations: The Future of the Debate

Melissa Nobles, Political Science, MIT

Tue, 04/21/2009
12-1:20 PM
Event Category: 
Co-sponsored Event

"Reparations: The Future of the Debate" is a Spring semester lunch series that is co-sponsored with the Center for African American Studies and the University Center for Human Values. The sessions will be conversations, rather than public lectures. For each session, a brief reading will be made available in advance, and a Princeton faculty member will serve as the facilitator by posing a few opening questions.  

"Apologies vs. Reparations: A False Trade-Off?"

Melissa Nobles is Associate Professor of Political Science. Professor Nobles’ teaching and research interests are in the comparative study of racial and ethnic politics, and issues of retrospective justice. Her book, Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics (Stanford University Press, 2000), examines the political origins and consequences of racial categorization in demographic censuses in the United States and Brazil. The Politics of Official Apologies, (Cambridge University Press, 2008), comparatively examines the political uses of official apologies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. It explores why minority groups demand such apologies and why governments give them (or not). She argues that official apologies are tactics used in larger political strategies to alter the terms and meanings of political membership. The power of apologies, and what distinguishes them from other tactics, is their ability to publicly ratify certain reinterpretations of history and to introduce expectations about what acknowledgment of that history requires. 

Commentator Paul Frymer is Associate Professor of Politics at Princeton. Frymer writes and teaches about democratic representation in the United States with particular interests in the historical place of political institutions such as courts and parties in responding to racial and class inequality. He is the author of Black and Blue: African Americans, the Labor Movement, and the Decline of the Democratic Party; and Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America, as well as articles on topics ranging from race theory and affirmative action, to lawyers and workplace discrimination, to electoral politics and social movements. 

Professor Nobles' paper is available at: