Ways of Knowing Atrocity: A Methodological Enquiry into the Formulation, Implementation and Assessment of Transitional Justice
(2015) 30 (2) Canadian Journal of Law and Society
17 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2015 Last revised: 9 Nov 2015
Date Written: July 24, 2015
This Special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Law and Society proposes that clashes over the different ways of knowing atrocity are central to understanding the contours of the debates and disagreements over transitional justice. Bringing together scholars and practitioners in politics, law, literature, statistics, anthropology, history, and development studies, the special issue focuses on the processes used to respond to atrocity starting with how we know about the nature of harm, and following this, what methods are used to both respond to these abuses and evaluate these responses. In doing so, the collection maps the forms through which knowledge on atrocity is conveyed and simultaneously explores how the form influences its content.
An increased sensitivity to the forms through which different actors know about atrocity draws attention to two over-arching themes developed across all seven of the articles included in this special issue. First, transitional justice processes provide a means of categorizing abuses. In doing so, they set the parameters of what type of harm warrants a response. Acknowledging the types of classification and the sources that underpin them sheds light on both what is made visible and what is rendered invisible in our current response to serious human rights violations. Second, when read together, the papers draw valuable attention to the researcher as a relational agent producing knowledge on atrocity, not only through determining the choice of method and the area of enquiry but through building sets of relationships that are a part of the response to the abuse. Acknowledging the relational aspect of both the practice and the research of transitional justice highlights the ethical obligations associated with obtaining access and claiming expertise when responding to serious human rights violation.
Keywords: transitional justice, methods, methodologies, ways of knowing
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