Back to program

Panel: Reconsidering TJ from Below: Music, Objects, Theatre, Memoir

Singing Truth to Power: Transformative (Gender) Justice, Musical Spatialities and Creative Performance

Dr. Maria Martin de Almagro, Professor, UGent

Feminist security studies have demonstrated that transitional justice processes worldwide have largely fallen short in providing actual transformative justice for women and that many gendered war experiences remain largely unaccounted for. Through an activistacademic collaboration and mobilising feminist scholarship on war, embodiment, and emotions with literature on transitional justice and the arts, this article argues that women’s collective artistic resistance can foster deeper, cultural and structural changes in transitional justice settings. By delving into the case of the women’s music collective Enkelé in Colombia, the article examines the creative possibilities afforded by music and choreography to document and testify to an enduring culture of violence and their role in probing the effectiveness of post-peace agreement transitional justice. We contend that paying attention to musical performances is key because these can express new visions of justice that are not constrained by the limits of what is possible and feasible in formal TJ mechanisms and can offer corporeal connectivity (Clark, 2019) able to bring together communities fractured by war and armed conflict and to give visibility to knowledges and practices of memory and healing of marginalised communities.

Storying Participation: Memoirs, Victims & Aparadigmatic Transitional Justice

Dr. Lauren Dempster, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast
Dr. Kevin Hearty, Queen’s University Belfast

In this paper we explore the ways in which victims have participated in unofficial transitional justice efforts involving non-state armed groups, drawing on data gathered from a series of memoirs authored by those impacted by the Northern Ireland conflict. We will consider two ways in which victims can participate in what we argue to be ‘quiet’ transitional justice efforts (Dempster 2019), beyond formal or paradigmatic mechanisms. First, we will examine the stories told within these memoirs about the ways in which victims have unofficially engaged with non-state armed groups in the pursuit of acknowledgement, truth, justice and apology. Second, we will consider how these memoirs themselves are a vehicle for participation in transitional justice, as spaces where victims have taken the lead in narrating their own experience in the way that they wish. We argue that memoirs both are, and contain, evidence of victim-led transitional justice that takes place outside of, or in spite of, traditional or formal mechanisms. As such they can disrupt state- or elite-led transitional justice efforts, and bring to the fore narratives and experiences that may be overlooked in the processes of selection that are symptomatic of formal mechanisms such as truth commissions and trials.

Contesting Reconciliation via the Arts

Dr. Rachel Kerr, Professor of War and Society, King’s College London

Reconciliation is a term that is closely tied to transitional justice and often posited as one of its core goals. But it is also highly contested. Past critiques have centred on its imposition from afar, tensions between the pursuit of reconciliation and the pursuit of accountability, and the exclusion of victims’ voices and perspectives in processes that have focused largely on elites. There have been moves to develop a more inclusive conceptualization of reconciliation that takes a long-term transformative and process-oriented approach, takes into account the multiple and intersecting identities and experiences of individuals affected by violence and embraces complexity. Arts-based interventions have propelled this new approach by engaging in contestation over the ideological and political meaning of reconciliation. This paper discusses contestation via the arts in two very different contexts: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Canada, where artists have challenged dominant tropes of reconciliation. The paper speaks directly to Stream 3 of the conference and its engagement with how epistemological and methodological diversity challenges and deconstructs foundational principles of transitional justice.

‘That’s How the Light Gets In’: Searching for Justice and Reconciling the Past in Jo Egan’s The Crack in Everything

Emily Moore, PhD Student, Queen’s University Belfast

The marked absence of an overarching transitional justice mechanism in post-conflict Northern Ireland is continuing to negatively impact victims, survivors, and their families in pursuing justice for conflict-related and historical cases from the Troubles. The Legacy Bill backed by the British Government promises an end to prosecutions and justice for these people, and in this landscape of impunity, what options are available to recognise these experiences? This paper examines Jo Egan’s 2018 play, The Crack in Everything, and its acute engagement with the experiences of six families whose children were killed during the Troubles, their fight for justice, and their ongoing experiences in the wake of impunity. The author argues that this play demonstrates the efficacy of the arts in mobilising victims, survivors and their families in participating beyond legal and verbal justice, rejecting the inaction of the state and relevant bodies in these cases, and can bring recognition to those who have been forgotten and marginalised by the metanarrative of conflict. This play retrospectively offers a lens through which the opposition to the Legacy Bill may be understood, and the response to its presentation at Westminster in June 2022 highlights the important role theatre may play in victim participation. With the Legacy Bill lurking on the horizon, it may be that artistic and cultural practises may be the only way in which victims and survivors can participate in dealing with the past and pursuing justice.

Museum and the Narrative of Having Memory Rights: Art and Narrative from Museu da Maré in Rio de Janeiro

Dr. Mariana Caldas, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

This paper aims to unravel the role cultural practices to enlarge political belonging within a violent cartography. This article takes the Museu da Maré, a museological space built by residents of the Complexo da Maré in Rio de Janeiro, as a paradigmatic example whilst formulating an alternative theoretical framework that observes the role of art as a political tool. The the museological site was built for making a unique space for telling the story of the community differently and, to do so, it was created by using simple objects donated by residents, from photos to old home objects. The site proposes to be a repository of the trajectories of those who live in the Maré’s community. This article analyzes how Maré’s artistic expressions disrupt a conventional set of meanings, turning visible narratives, subjects, and bodies – especially those living on society’s margins, to expand a broader reflection to transitional processes that did not address the structural causes of violence in the social fabric. The paper argues that Maré’s case is relevant to explore how the subject of injustice takes materiality to advance in an alternative grammar of their own experiences of violence and belonging. Judgement plays a role in enlarging our public imagination and turning visible hidden narratives of the marginalized subject, who, in public spaces, quests for belonging to the common. Thus, objects play a role in becoming a work of art for rethinking how violence permeates the cartography and for advancing in a grammar of rights and belonging.