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Exploring Transitional Justice’s Revolutionary Potential

The new episode of the Justice Visions podcast is a first episode of a miniseries that explores the revolutionary potential of transitional justice. Recently, an evolution can be observed in which grassroots actors are increasingly mobilizing the rhetoric and tools of transitional justice as an element of their protest repertoire. These expressions of transitional justice co-exist with state-centric and standardized transitional justice mechanisms.

The practice mobilizing transitional justice as a tool to further resistance against authoritarianism or exploitation, can in several ways be traced back to the origins transitional justice, which was also rooted in protests against dictatorships. Yet, the dynamics of resistance in transitional justice is largely underexplored in transitional justice scholarship. In this mini-series we will shed a light on some interesting cases, ranging from the Middle East and North Africa, to Latin and North America.

The first episode focuses on the MENA region where protest movements in several countries have used transitional justice tools and concepts for revolutionary purposes, protesting state repression, neo-colonial practices and extractivism. Our first guest is Noha Aboueldahab, who is a professor of transitional justice at Georgetown University in Doha. She is specialised in transitional justice in the Middle East and North Africa, and specifically also zooms in her latest research on the nexus between resistance and transitional justice. As Noha highlights, protest is integral to transitional justice: “The aspirations of transitional justice are by their very nature revolutionary in the sense that transitional justice seeks revolutionary change.”

One of the central questions of our conversation is how adopting this lens of protest is increasingly relevant to transitional justice scholarship and practices, and how it can transform these in ways that bring transitional justice closer to peoples lived experiences of harm. “It’s mostly Western knowledge production that becomes mainstreamed”, Noha argues. “And this is, of course, a problem not just in transitional justice, but in so many other disciplines. But because transitional justice is such a policy heavy field, this limited representation of the intellectual and practical material related to transitional justice is something that ultimately limits the strength of transitional justice policies to address these diversified contexts.”


Noha Aboueldahab is Assistant Professor of international law at Georgetown University in Qatar. She is also a Senior Non-resident Fellow at the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, and was previously a Fellow and Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Aboueldahab is an award-winning specialist in transitional justice and is the author of Transitional Justice and the Prosecution of Political Leaders in the Arab Region.

Her second book (forthcoming with Oxford University Press) examines how Arab diasporas have expanded the political, intellectual, and socio-legal spaces of international law and transitional justice.

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