Reckoning with the Colonial Past: Historical Commissions as tools for change

Presentation by Cira-Palli Aspero at the Memory Studies Association (MSA): “Communities and Change” Newcastle, United Kingdom, 3 to 7 July 2023.

In panel: Decolonising Transitional Justice: The Role of Unprocessed Memory in Perpetuating the Cycles of Colonial Violence.

This paper takes a conceptual approach to this question to examine the suitability of transitional justice to address the legacies of colonial historical injustices and their enduring harm in the present by zooming in to the work of (post-)colonial historical commissions. Although such commissions originated outside the field of transitional justice, they have increasingly been adopting its language and logic. Taking into account that (post-)colonial historical commissions are increasingly being chosen as key step on a process of state redress of historical injustices, the paper examines the ways in which such commissions, framed within the transitional justice paradigm, can contribute to addressing the legacies of the colonial past; as well as exploring their most striking shortcomings – that is, the risk of becoming tactical concessions instead of part of a decolonisation process.


Date & Time

July 3, 2023



Organized by Memory Studies Association