A new and distinctively post-apartheid historiography has yet to find its feet in relation to the period covered by this volume. Since 1994, when the first democratic elections were held in South Africa, there have been significant changes in the nature of public discourses about South Africa’s past. Settlerist and narrow nationalist (notably Afrikaner and Zulu) historical projects have, unsurprisingly, largely lost their impetus. Government efforts led by the African National Congress to invoke a new national past rooted in the black struggle against oppression have focused primarily on the twentieth century. The effort to achieve reconciliation and unity initially moved to deflect public discourse away from attending to the past except as it was manifested in the proceedings of, and the texts that flowed from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in 1995, and in a handful of legacy projects undertaken by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. Concomitantly, the 1990s saw the rapid growth of the particular genre of history commonly known as heritage – celebrating, commemorating, and often commodifying selected aspects of the past. Although heritage and public history courses and research have flourished, universities have experienced a sharp decline in the numbers of students enrolled in mainstream history courses, and the substantial cohorts of graduate students undertaking primary historical research, a feature of the radical history movement of the 1980s, have evaporated.
Small but encouraging signs of things to come are discernible in a variety of areas. Significant challenges lie in how to approach, or augment, the available archive for the period covered by this volume – an archive for the most part powerfully shaped by the colonial and later apartheid eras in which it was established – to facilitate new kinds of research. Key secondary texts that have given definition to how this period is understood themselves require critical review. Likewise, the exclusion of other texts from the historical canon may warrant reassessment.
Researchers in many subdisciplines of psychology have made their reputations cleverly documenting the various cognitive, perceptual, and motivational biases that systematically distort human judgment and inference. In this chapter, we explore some of the interpersonal and intergroup consequences of such biases. In particular, we consider the role these biases can play in creating, exacerbating, and perpetuating conflict between individuals and between groups.
One way in which biases contribute to conflict is obvious. When different peopleare subject tothe influenceof differentbiases, they are boundto thinkand feel differently about issues. And people who disagree with each other – indeed, even people who are reasonably like minded but attach different priorities to the problems they feel should be addressed or the actions they feel should be taken – are apt to frustrate each other's efforts and ambitions. There is, however, a second way in which biases fuel enmity that is less direct, but not less important. People and groups who disagree about matters of mutual concern not only interact in conflictual ways; they also interpret, and frequently misinterpret, each other's words and deeds. The nature of such misattributions, and their consequences, occupies most of our attention in this chapter. First, however, we begin by simply noting some well-studied cognitive and motivational biases and illustrating how they might foster interpersonal and intergroup enmity.
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