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Fictions of Truth: Dominant Narratives and the Strategic Framing of Local Transitional Justice

February 11, 2020 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm
Encina Commons, room 123

Transitional justice (TJ) is suffering a legitimacy crisis. While recent critical TJ scholarship has touted the transformative potential of locally-rooted mechanisms as a possible means to "save" TJ, this budding literature rests on often shaky claims about the purported benefits of local TJ and provides inadequate attention to how domestic political interests and asymmetric power dynamics between local and national actors shape these initiatives on the ground.

By taking these factors into account, speaker Adam Kochanski will contend that local TJ processes can be used to deflect justice in ways that paradoxically allow ruling parties to avoid human rights accountability and to conceal the truth about wartime violations. He further argues that the principal method by which justice is subverted is not through overt manipulation by ruling parties, but rather, through subtle indirect "distortional framing" methods, which abusive postconflict regimes employ to set discursive limits around discussions of the past and to mask their own crimes. The case studies of Cambodia and Mozambique are considered in detail to reveal and to trace the processes by which distortional framing has been deployed as a technique to deflect justice.

Adam Kochanski is the Postdoctoral Fellow in International Relations at the McGill University’s Centre for International Peace and Security Studies and a research fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Human Rights and International Justice. His research focuses on transitional justice, post-conflict peacebuilding, and norms of humanitarian protection. His book project, Justice Deflected: The Uses and Abuses of Local Transitional Justice Processes, explores the influence of domestic political interests and local-national power asymmetries on memory, reconciliation, and healing in communities recovering from armed conflict in Cambodia and Mozambique. His forthcoming article from this project in International Studies Review takes stock of the “local turn” in transitional justice and dissects several questionable assumptions underpinning both scholarship and practice in this area. Numerous fellowships and grants have supported his research, including from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and International Development Research Centre. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of Ottawa. He completed a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University’s Center for Human Rights and International Justice and was a research affiliate at UCLA’s Promise Institute for Human Rights.

Event Sponsor: 
Center for African Studies, Center for Human Rights and International Justice
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