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The workshop "The Ritual of Public Apology". Date: 22-23.03.2012. Site: Antwerpen, Belgium. Deadline: 25.11.2011


On March 22nd – 23rd 2012 UCSIA organizes the workshop ‘The Ritual of Public Apology’ at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. This programme will investigate how the concept of apology is applied in the fields of communication and media, law and diplomacy, business and public relations. 
An apology is a “regretful acknowledgment of offence or failure” (Oxford Dictionary of Current English).  For an apology to be a genuine act of ritualistic justice, the offender must acknowledge responsibility for injury or damage, the apologizer should be sincerely troubled by his acts, and the apology should be offered without defense. Genuine apologies are rituals of moral rebalancing - of  exchange between shame and power - between offender and offended.
Apologies are important to mend damaged interpersonal relations and are useful strategies in criminal and restorative justice. The ritual of apology has also become more important in intergroup relations. Political apology – leaders, speaking as representatives for the collectivity, apologizing for the wrongs of one group to another group  – is an important strategy to address various economic, social or political injuries or injustices. Moreover, recent crisis situations like the ones at Fukushima’s Nuclear Plant or the oil spill tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, have clearly shown the role and importance of apology in business communication. In other words, the ritual of apology of the “many” to the “many” finds application in many different contexts and is used by businesses, nonprofit organizations, governments and international organizations as a strategy to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
Many other famous cases (The University of Alabama and the legacy of slavery, Archbishop Tutu and the South African Churches during Apartheid,  the US Senate and the treatment of Japanese-Americans during the 2nd World War, the government of Germany and the Holocaust, the Canadian government and the native populations etc.) illustrate the prevalence and importance of apologies as a mechanism of reconciliation and appeasement. 
The ritual of public apology and the use of apology in economic, social or political spheres in modern societies, raises many interesting questions for a wide range of disciplines such as theology, religious studies, law, linguistics, communication, anthropology, sociology, political sciences, economics, etc.
What constitutes a genuine apology? In what circumstances is the ritual of  apology conducive to restorative justice and reconciliation? How is the ritual of apology embedded in national and international law? What are the social costs and benefits of engaging in political apology? What is the effect of apology on the perception of the corporate image? What triggers the use of the strategy of political apology? What lessons can be learned from famous cases of political apology? How different is the perception and effectiveness of apologies and the ritual of apology in different cultures? How effective are apologies in crisis communication?  How are concepts from religion - such as sin and forgiving – related to the ritual of apology? What is the importance of narrative and language in the ritual of apology? 

The UCSIA workshop welcomes researchers, doctoral students and other experts to share scholarly ideas, practices and ideas on ‘The Ritual of Public Apology’. Such an interdisciplinary conference may open up a new horizon for academics, students and policy makers to think about the topic. Presentations can summarize empirical research outcomes, but also historical, conceptual, methodological contributions are welcomed for submission.

Your paper proposal should discuss one of the following subtopics: 

  1. Discourse on Apology in Communication and Media
  2. Rituals of Apology in Law
  3. Practices of Apology in Diplomacy
  4. Apology in Business, Public Relations and Crisis Communication


To submit your application, fill in the online submission form and opload the following documents: 

  • an outline of your proposed paper of 750 to 1000 words with references (not included), in English
  • your curriculum vitae, in English, list of publications included (if available)

Applicants should:

  • be a master or doctoral student or postdoctoral researcher in the humanities or social sciences
  • be involved in ongoing academic research relevant to the themes addressed in the sessions of the workshop
  • have a good command of English 
  • respect formal requirements of the application process 

Selection Criteria 

  • fulfillment of formal eligibility requirements 
  • a well written paper proposal, related to the main topic of the workshop and representative of your research work, indicating the methodology and theoretical underpinning of your empirical research

Selection Process 

The selection of participants will be made on a competitive basis by the members of the organizing committee headed by the academic director of UCSIA. The papers will be examined through a blind refereeing process. 

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

UCSIA will fund the following for selected participants:

  • tuition fee
  • study materials
  • accomodation and meals during the workshop 

Participants are expected to bear their own travel expenses.


Ms. Marijke Celis, marijke.celis@ua.ac.be