Special Issue: Philosophy of Transitional Justice
Philosophy of Transitional Justice, Forthcoming
92 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2013 Last revised: 15 Jul 2013
Date Written: February 8, 2013
“Beth Hamishpath” - the House of Justice, this voice accompanies the entrance of the three judges in black robes who take their seats surrounded by books and several hundreds of document pages. Since the incipit Arendt’s philosophical insight emerges as a blend of formal and informal elements concurring in the trial of “the evil”. No wonder why the book’s subtitle is: “A Report on the Banality of Evil”. How can evil be banal? Maybe because in principle it cannot be even reflectively judged, following Arendt’s interpretation of Kant, if not on negative bases as it is in part the case with the sublime. In this respect, the evil appears meaningless, when not patently insulting, as in the definition reported by Arendt of the Nazis practices of extermination called “medical matters”. So, in a subtle way Arendt seems to warn us on the paradoxical entrapment we fall into when attempting to come to terms with the past. This general endeavor is what has been addressed as the domain of “transitional justice”. Yet, its context of application is wider than what has been normally thought, and it has involved also in-war transitions and conflict-preventive transitional measures. The philosophical purchase of transitional justice, then, is not only phenomenological but primarily normative in its highest sense. To reconceive a theory of justice along transitional lines, that is, in times of transition means in a way to replace the traditional “static,” “fixed” approaches to justice as those advanced by contractarians with a dynamic and contextually-oriented judgment approach.
The essays included here engage all in discussion with the issues mentioned above with the idea of broadening the conceptual scope and complexity that such fast growing discipline is called to cover. In particular, specific issues are raised in the discussion of the status of transitional justice as a field of study and political action, not to mention its inherent paradoxes, as well as the exemplary role of resistance. Finally, the discussion on the legitimacy of retributive claims for indigenous peoples suggests what can be some of the intra-democratic areas of application for transitional justice initiatives. The bulk of problems these contributions raise goes well beyond the apparently fragmented technicalities in which each essay engages in. Interesting, indeed, are some of the tacit assumptions that the contributors seem to share, the most important of which consists in taking instances of transitional justice cases as part of an all-embracing and organic field of study still under construction.
Keywords: transitional justice, minority and indigenous rights, peace, reconciliation, resistance
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