Date of Award

Winter 1997

Project Type


Program or Major

Reading and Writing Instruction

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Barbara Houston


This dissertation, a philosophical inquiry into the significance of the aesthetic domain for reconciliation, addresses the following question: What is the nature of reconciliation, and what is the nature of the aesthetic domain, that aesthetic forms and processes should be uniquely well-suited to the educational tasks and challenges inherent in the work of reconciliation? The question is answered through the methods of conceptual analysis, with examples from the author's practice of conflict resolution, oral history and cultural work.

The first section of the dissertation identifies 'reconciliation' as an ethical and educational concept. The educational tasks of reconciliation--through which former enemies must come to understand their own and each others' suffering, acknowledge injustices, and become trusting and trustworthy--are made difficult by challenges created by violent conflict. The challenges result from the ethical and epistemic interembeddedness of individuals and their groups; the ethical and epistemic interrelatedness of enemies; and the extent to which violence itself impairs necessary capacities.

The second section proposes an original conception of the aesthetic domain, based on Western philosophical theories and their feminist and Africanist critics, analysis of expressive patterns of pre-literate collectivities, and two Eastern theories. The definition builds on categories that emerge from Western philosophy--the integration of the sensuous and the rational; apprehension of formal qualities; and non-utilitarian response--and corrects for cultural bias. The aesthetic domain is defined by the pleasurable reciprocity between the organization of elements in a formal structure and the perceptual capacities and sensibilities of perceivers.

The third section of the dissertation demonstrates that aesthetic forms and processes are uniquely well-suited to accomplish the educational tasks and meet the educational challenges inherent in reconciliation. Both reconciliation and aesthetic transactions involve transformations that also respect the integrity of all parties. Aesthetic forms and processes cultivate the precise sensibilities--receptivity, respect, empathy, creativity, vitality, and metacognitive self-awareness--that are required for reconciliation. Finally, rituals and other collective expressive forms offer non-violent but viscerally compelling means through which human communities might substantiate large-scale framing assumptions, including new relationships imagined and created through efforts at reconciliation.