Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society

Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization performance of AH 7808, adapted from the Northern Irish play AH 6905 by Dave Duggan. Performed at the Centre Culturel Arabe in Brussels, February 2011. Photo by Valerie Brixhe.

The success of transitional justice measures rests in no small degree on their ability to promote social awareness of their importance and to engage the public. This view, now widely shared, is unfortunately not always reflected in either the design or operations of transitional justice measures. ICTJ’s research project on outreach in transitional justice mechanisms examined some past experiences and made recommendations to improve relevant practices.

Public engagement with transitional justice, however, is unlikely to take place primarily in judicial and even in political spheres. This project, Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society, extends ICTJ’s outreach project by focusing attention on the important ways in which education, media, and various types of cultural interventions are necessary for, and contribute to, the dissemination of transitional justice messages in the broader public sphere.

Project Aims

Although there have been some isolated studies about the intersection of transitional justice and media, culture, and society, there has been little systematic work to date examining these links.

The Research Unit’s project on Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society aims to take a first step toward filling this gap.

The project has commissioned 16 papers (10 case studies and six thematic papers) that collectively provide a preliminary overview of the relationship between transitional justice measures and different modes of expression and communication—developed mainly in the public sphere—that may engage populations in the justice process. The papers will be published in an edited volume in 2012.

Topics and Studies

The book project contains a total of 16 chapters organized into four different sections:

  • Transitional justice outreach programs, with examples from the Special Court of Sierra Leone, the War Crimes Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the collective reparations program of Morocco and the Timor-Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation.
  • Conflict, media, and transitional justice, exploring the role of media in conflict and post-conflict situations (examining Rwanda and Serbia), the use of interactive radio programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, the public reverberations of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the use of new media by international criminal courts.
  • Promoting public engagement through cultural interventions, which includes two thematic chapters on literature and audio-visual productions as well as two case studies that analyze the potentials of participatory theater and photography, using the experiences of Afghanistan and the Yuyanapaq photography exhibit in Peru, respectively.
  • Transitional justice and education. Together with a thematic study on outreach programs tailored for children and youth, this section explores the potential educative role of memorials, as well as informal education systems like the Sesame Street Workshop program in Kosovo. It also includes a study about the way in which the vocabulary of truth commissions has been incorporated in academic discussions.


Participants in this project include: Nidzara Ahmetasevic, Stephanie Barbour, Patrick Burgess, Louis Bickford, Catherine M. Cole, Charlotte F. Cole, Camille Crittenden, Eduardo Gónzalez, Julie Guillerot, Wanda Hall, Pierre Hazan, Maya Karwande, Virginie Ladisch, June H. Lee, Timothy Longman, Tanja Matic, Clara Ramírez-Barat, Nadia Siddiqui, Carlos Thiebaut, Jonathan VanAntwerpen, and Galuh Wandita.