While inclusion, participation and victim-centredness have become catchwords in transitional justice discourse, this rhetoric has not necessarily enabled the articulation of more complex identities and experiences, or the pursuit of varied justice claims. To probe this disconnect, this article engages with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, a mechanism established to reckon with the country’s history of internal armed conflict, and hailed for its involvement of vulnerable, disenfranchised and oft-overlooked groups. The article combines expressive theories of justice with an innovative corpus-based methodology to critically examine how the Commission made visible, defined and construed these actors through its language of inclusion. Results from word frequency, co-occurrence and sentiment analyses illustrate how the Commission foregrounded the plight and rights of women and children, and their participation as a vehicle for emancipation, but simultaneously reproduced universalist and static identities, fixation on sexual violence and child soldier recruitment, and subject positions lacking in positive or political capabilities. This duality points to inherent tensions in the expressive messaging of TJ institutions, and rather locates the transformative potential of their inclusionary language in the strategic openings it affords for victims’ groups, women and youth organizations in their broader trajectories towards justice and change.