Truth and Reconciliation Commissions: Anthropological Perspectives

The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Hilary Callan (ed.). Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell., (2017)

11 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2017 Last revised: 9 Mar 2020

See all articles by Katharine Richards

Katharine Richards

University of Connecticut

Richard Ashby Wilson

University of Connecticut School of Law; Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut

Date Written: February 24, 2017

Abstract

In periods of transition after political violence, a truth and reconciliation commission is one method for successor governments and international agencies to document past abuses of human rights. These temporary commissions investigate the covert activities of repressive regimes and rebel groups, document and publicize survivors’ testimonies, and recommend institutional reforms and restitution for victims and their families. Most commissions pursue a form of restorative justice that prioritizes the needs of survivors, without also trading truth for immunity from prosecution as occurred at the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Anthropological studies help us understand how the target audience of survivors actually responds to top-down national policy measures such as truth-telling, reparations and reconciliation, and how such transitional justice mechanisms might be designed to be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of those most affected.

Keywords: Transitional Justice, Restorative Justice, Political Violence, Human Rights, Legal Anthropology, Political Anthropology

Suggested Citation

Richards, Katharine and Wilson, Richard Ashby, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions: Anthropological Perspectives (February 24, 2017). The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Hilary Callan (ed.). Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell., (2017), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2923387

Katharine Richards

University of Connecticut ( email )

354 Mansfield Road
Storrs, CT 06269-1176
United States

Richard Ashby Wilson (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uconn.edu/faculty/profiles/richard-wilson

Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut ( email )

354 Mansfield Road
Storrs, CT 06269-1176
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://anthropology.uconn.edu/person/richard-ashby-wilson/

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