Historians Engaging with Processes of Transitional Justice

AHA Session 106
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
New York Ballroom West (Sheraton New York, Third Floor)
Liz Ševčenko, Rutgers University–Newark
Liz Ševčenko, Rutgers University–Newark

Session Abstract

How can the academic knowledge and skills of trained historians help us promote social justice in our communities? How can rigorous knowledge about the past and civic engagement work together to promote human rights? This panel brings together historians from the United States, Latin America and Europe who apply their skills and knowledge to promote social justice in the aftermath of large-scale violence. In particular, it discusses the contributions that the historians can make to processes of transitional justice and to promote democracy in different parts of the globe. The way we tackle the transition from conflict to peace has changed over time and notions of justice have broadened. From an initial approach that focused on rectifying human rights violations through criminal prosecution, our understanding of transitional justice has broadened over the years to include truth commissions, reparation and memorialization. Oral historians have played a very important role in pushing forward the right to truth of victims of armed conflict, for example. However, the relevance of history does not stop there. Some scholars argue that for there to be justice it is imperative to address the root causes, that is, the structural socioeconomic and gendered inequalities that underlie violence. As such, transitional justice is not exclusively a legal or political matter and history becomes deeply relevant to delve into its social and local dimensions. This panel brings together papers that address the relationship of history and transitional justice exploring it on different dimensions. On the one hand, some papers historicize the idea of transitional justice. How has the concept changed over time? How have notions of justice intersected with ideas about the past and its role in peace building? On the other hand, they inquire about the role of historians and the use of historical knowledge after massive human rights violations. Brought together, these papers will prompt a conversation about the possibilities and challenges of a historical approach to the promotion of justice after violence.
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