Memory Politics: Truth, Justice, Redress–Spring 2018

Memory Politics_Fletcher_Spring.2018


Professor Kimberly Theidon

Spring 2017

T/TH 11:05-12:20, C205


Office hours held in Cabot 508

WED 12:00-2:00

TH 4:00-5:30

Or by appointment if needed



“Meditate that this came about:

I commend these words to you.

Carve them in your hearts.”

— Primo Levi, survivor of Auschwitz



Course Description


In the aftermath of political violence and the massive violation of human rights, how do individuals, communities and societies come to terms with these atrocities and reconstruct social relationships and sociability?  How do people live together again after suffering and inflicting lethal violence?  In the context of state-sponsored terror, how do successor regimes make a break with the past, establish a new set of social norms, and work toward the administration of justice, redress and reconciliation

In this course we analyze the relationship between memory and social reconciliation, and the role that theories of truth, justice and redress play in this equation.  We begin with WWII, or more precisely its aftermath.  WWII was a point of historical disjuncture: From the Nazi atrocities and the subsequent trials at Nuremberg and Tokyo emerged a series of conventions and covenants establishing human rights as a set of international laws, institutions, and norms.


We trace the expansion of, and challenges to, the regime of human rights and international law by focusing on case studies that allow us to analyze war crimes tribunals, truth commissions, the burgeoning field of transitional justice, and local level forms of assessing guilt and administering justice.  Each class session will begin with the professor situating the assigned readings within the relevant debates and historical context. .


Our case studies this year include Rwanda, South Africa, Colombia, Guatemala, and Peru.  Course readings draw upon critical legal studies, political science, history, anthropology — complemented with human rights documents, truth commission reports, novels and films — in an attempt to understand how atrocities begin and how they may end.  We will consider how genocides continued to occur throughout the 20th century — and into the 21st — during an époque characterized by the call for “Never Again” (Nunca Más).  Finally, once the fighting subsides, what can and should be done with the victims, the perpetrators, and that sizeable segment of the population that may blur the dichotomy?

Seminar Objectives

*Develop familiarity with the history and practice of human rights and transitional justice mechanisms

*Develop knowledge of human rights and transitional justice standards and their application;

*Develop familiarity with regional and international human rights and transitional justice actors and institutions;

*Deepen understanding of different disciplinary, theoretical and methodological approaches to conflict and post-conflict issues, including social repair;

*Through the use of case studies, evaluate transitional justice efforts and their consequences;

*Improve research, writing skills and critical thinking skills via written assignments and in- class presentations

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