Developing multi-method approaches to study the impact of transitional justice interventions

Presentation by Tine Destrooper at the Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference

In the past decade the notion of victim participation came to take up a central place in the discourse and practice of transitional justice (TJ). But what do we really know about how to best organize this participation so that its alleged benefits come about? A lot of research has been carried out on the effects of victim participation on procedures (can due process be guaranteed?) and on the psychological effects of participation (especially regarding potential re-traumatization). Much less has been written about the potential long-term (and possibly unforeseen) effects of victim participation in terms of increasing local ownership and engendering (legal) consciousness and empowerment among victims-participants. This lack of sound research on how people’s legal consciousness and feeling of empowerment are shaped during and through their participation is striking. It is particularly striking when considering that one of the justifications for victim participation (in addition to epistemological reasons and concerns over acknowledgment and procedural rights) is the recasting of victims-participants as agents of change who will carry forth the quest for justice once the international community leaves. It is all the more striking that the extra-legal functions of TJ interventions, which this conceptualization of victim participation is pinned on, are seldom made explicit, nor do we know much about their nature, “pathway of impact” or causal mechanisms. This largely has to do with the complex methodological challenges inherent in this kind of exploration. In order to map these effects and pathways of impact, multi-method and multi-disciplinary approaches are needed, which link micro- to macro-level processes and short-term to long-term potential benefits. In the absence of such a multi-method research approach, the effects of various kinds of TJ interventions will continue to remain opaque.In this project we draw on advanced methodological insights from social and political science, and combine these with a legal analysis, in order to develop and implement a novel approach to measuring the (unforeseen and long-term) effects of victim participation on participant’s (legal) consciousness and empowerment. This methodology also has a broader relevance in the field of TJ, when studying, for example the ways in which acknowledgement of injustice interacts with processes of (legal) empowerment

Date & Time

April 1, 2020



Organized by Socio Legal Studies Association