Transitional Justice from the Margins: Intersections of Identities, Power and Human Rights
Guest Editors: Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and Eilish Rooney
This special issue of the International Journal of Transitional Justice seeks scholarship and practitioners’ reflections that engage critically with the intersections of transitional justice and social oppression.
In 2017 the Journal marks its 10th anniversary. We take this opportunity to open a conversation that raises profound questions about the status of transitional justice. This starts not from a series of normative assumptions about truth, justice and reconciliation but rather from an analysis of how the structure of the discipline reinforces power dynamics. We plan to examine how transitional justice intersects with the structural dimensions of marginalization and oppression.
A central critique of the evolution of transitional justice relates to the legal framework and discourse of international human rights law that elevates certain civil and political rights over other norms, realities and dynamics. Systemic structural inequities become invisible or relegated to subsequent policy perspectives that governments or the international community invaribaly push ‘down the road.’ As these issues often reflect the power dynamics of the state, they tend to be ignored in favor of maintaining and consolidating the status quo. The structural nature of social oppressions, often underlying many gross violations of human rights, and the collective resistance of those most directly affected by these oppressions, often appear marginalized by transitional justice frameworks and discourses.
The operation of power at the intersections of gender, ‘race,’ social class and/or sexualities is often obscured in the narrow lens of individually focused violations. Some might suggest that transitional justice has, at best, an individualized reductionistic relationship with gender through its hypervisibilization of sexual violence – contributing to what Canadian scholar Sherene Razack (2007) characterizes as “stealing the pain of others” – and a blindness to racism.
Kimberlee Crenshaw (1989) has examined how the focus exclusively on women as individual victims of a singular injustice may lead to revictimization by a legal system that continues to prioritize hegemonic patriarchal and racialised power. Her work – and that of indigenous scholars and others writing ‘from the margins’ – documents the structural economic, political and social systems that constrain minoritized and marginalized communities and their struggles for justice. Those acting and writing ‘from the margins’ or constructing knowledge ‘from the bottom up’ challenge those within the transitional justice field to critically interrogate the current dominant frameworks.
We seek work that contributes to critically discussing the limits of the transitional justice framework for understanding the causes and redressing the effects of social, economic and cultural rights violations, or explores how transitional justice could/should be broadened to address such challenges. We particularly welcome contributions that address intersectionality and its relationship to violent conflict and political settlements in theory and in practice. This special issue seeks to focus on work that generates new thinking or action which centers around scholarship and activist insights that are grounded in and promote postcolonial or decolonizing knowledge produced by, or collaboratively with, an increasingly diverse and complex global community.
Questions that submissions could explore include:
• Does transitional justice need to think beyond human rights frameworks in order to address structural inequalities and systems of oppression?
• How does the current focus on sexual violence reproduce sexual hierarchies in transitional justice interventions, and entrench that focus in transitional accountability?
• Where are LGBTQI individuals in the transitional justice conversation?
• Is masculinity intersectional?
• How does transitional justice reinforce or critically engage categories of identity and forms of hierarchy?
• How might transitional justice be reconfigured if knowledge ‘from the margins’ traveled to the center? In what ways can or should local or indigenous theory and praxis in postconflict contexts reframe transitional justice norms, knowledge and practices?
• What does ‘grassroots’ transitional justice really mean in practice and how might it be holistically and meaningfully advanced, acknowledging the communities and individuals who advance it?
• Can economic, social and cultural rights be adequately addressed through a transitional justice framework?
• How can the silos of development and transitional justice be integrated and expanded to encapsulate attention to the power differentials that lead to human rights violations?
The issue will be guest edited by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and Eilish Rooney of the Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University. Ní Aoláin is Professor of Law at the Transitional Justice Institute and holds the Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy and Society at the University of Minnesota Law School. Rooney is a Senior Lecturer in Ulster’s School of Sociology and Applied Social Studies. She represents the Transitional Justice Institute on the Transitional Justice Grassroots Toolkit programme, a university–community partnership with Bridge of Hope, a community-based organization focused on supporting persons affected by the conflict in Northern Ireland. Rooney and Ní Aoláin have collaborated extensively in the practice and theorizing of intersectionality in transitional justice.
The deadline for submissions is 1 July 2017.
Papers should be submitted online from the IJTJ webpage at www.ijtj.oxfordjournals.org.
For further information, please contact the Managing Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.