Violence, Law and the (Im)possibility of Transitional Justice

  • Catherine Turner

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Since its emergence less than twenty years ago, transitional justice has established itself as a coherent field of activity, held together by a set of common assumptions about the value of justice in times of political transition. The requirements of transitional justice are increasingly institutionalised in international law and policy,creating a clearly defined model. However a range of critical perspectives have also been brought to bear on the emergent policy and practice of transitional justice.These critiques have highlighted the blind spots and the ways in which the model of transitional justice itself has set the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion in the transitional space. The purpose of this thesis is to ascertain the impact that the institutionalisation of the ‘field’ has had on transitional justice discourse. Using the work of Jacques Derrida, and ‘deconstructing’ the model of transitional justice, the thesis builds on existing critiques to expound at a theoretical level the relationship between the concepts of violence, law and justice that underpin the field. It asks whether as a ‘field’ transitional justice continues to accommodate divergent perspectives, or whether the effect of the institution of transitional justice in international law and policy has been to create a bounded ‘theatrical space’ within which efforts at post conflict peace making must play out. Rather than exploring discrete sites of silence and invisibility the thesis asks the bigger question of why some voices and some experiences are excluded from transitional justice discourse. In so doing it proposes a coherent theoretical framework within which these disparatecritiques can be understood. This is achieved by highlighting the relationship between violence, law and justice in constructing understandings of conflict and transition.Ultimately the thesis reveals the limitations of a normative concept of transitional justice that does not remain responsive to critique. In so doing it interrogates the relationship between law and justice in a way that has not yet been undertaken.
Date of AwardJul 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorGordon Anthony (Supervisor) & Bal Sokhi-Bulley (Supervisor)

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