Social Reconstruction as a Local Process

Posted: 19 May 2009  

Laura Arriaza

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Naomi Roht-Arriaza

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: July 2008


When it comes to post-armed conflict interventions aimed at restructuring a shattered society, policy makers have largely treated countries as an undifferentiated whole, ignoring local dynamics that reinforce or transform the power relations that are often most relevant to peoples’ lives. Using the example of Guatemala, the authors argue that local-level, bottom-up mechanisms can reflect a country's diverse makeup and experience of conflict, and provide crucial precursors or extensions for wider-scale national and international projects. Local-level initiatives also can involve more community members, promote agency and perhaps be less prone to large-scale patronage and corruption. In promoting truth-telling initiatives and confronting the past, memorializing the departed and burying the dead, and resolving ongoing or recent community conflicts, the authors have found that local-level programs have distinct advantages. The article considers local ‘houses of memory,’ community-sponsored psycho-social interventions and exhumations; and conflict resolution based on Mayan methods. It concludes that such efforts should be more systematically identified and supported in post-armed conflict settings. In transitional justice, as elsewhere, the authors find, all politics is local.

Suggested Citation

Arriaza, Laura and Roht-Arriaza, Naomi, Social Reconstruction as a Local Process (July 2008). The International Journal of Transitional Justice, Vol. 2, Issue 2, pp. 152-172, 2008. Available at SSRN: or

Laura Arriaza (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Naomi Roht-Arriaza

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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