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Roundtable: Whose Victims, Whose Voice? Knowledge Production, Epistemic Inequality and Methodological (Power) Shifts in Transitional Justice

Dr. Eva Willems, Post-doctoral Researcher, History Department, Ghent University
Gabriela Zamora Castellares, historiadora de la Universidad Nacional San Cristóbal de Huamanga, Perú
Dr. Sanne Weber, Assistant Professor Peace and Conflict Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen
Dr. Selbi Durdiyeva, Postdoctoral Researcher, Center for Conflict Studies, Philipps University Marburg
Dr. Mijke de Waardt, Researcher NSCR, Assistant Professor Criminology VU
Dr. Sandra Milena Rios Oyola, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University College Roosevelt (UU)

The calls for more genuine victim participation in TJ processes are rooted in the critique that TJ entrepreneurs
speak on behalf of victims instead of empowering them to use their own voice. This question of who gets to
speak on whose behalf in TJ is essentially an epistemic one: existing power hierarchies and unequal relations
between entrepreneurs and beneficiaries of TJ are reflected in how different types of knowledge that shape
the study and practices of TJ are measured. Victims are considered to (exclusively) produce ‘experience-based’
and ‘alternative’ knowledges situated on the local level, while TJ entrepreneurs are seen as the ‘experts’ and
‘architects’ of TJ’s mechanisms and processes who move in or have access to international discourses, practices
and spaces. This epistemic inequality does not only constitute an injustice in itself; it also leads to knowledge
gaps and ineffective design and implementation of TJ policies, hereby running the risk of undermining the
purposes of seeking truth, accountability and redress for victims.

This roundtable wants to reflect on current approaches to knowledge production in TJ and inspire new ones, in
order to move towards methodological and epistemic (power) shifts in the field. It will do so by putting the
following questions center-stage:

  1. What is the current state of knowledge production in TJ? In which spaces is knowledge produced and
    by whom? Which actors have access to which spaces of knowledge production?
  2. What are the blind spots and knowledge gaps generated by the existing epistemic inequalities in TJ?
  3. How do we achieve more equal ownership over the process of knowledge production for all
    stakeholders involved in TJ processes?
  4. Which methodological shifts stimulate a more inclusive practice of knowledge production in TJ?