International Conference

Narrating Transitional Justice: History, Memory, Poetics and Politics

July 29-30, 2021


Narrating Transitional Justice: History, Memory, Poetics and Politics
July 29-30, 2021 ● McMaster University, Canada

Location: McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
Date: July 29-30, 2021
Abstract Deadline: April 20, 2020
Contact Information: Dr. Melike Yilmaz (Research Coordinator) –
Subjects: Transitional justice; truth commissions; conflict; peacebuilding; human rights; narratives; fiction; history; stories

The Confronting Atrocity Project at McMaster University, Canada announces a 2-day Conference that will bring together expert scholars, policymakers, and civil society stakeholders to examine narratives of transitional justice at the intersections of literary culture, history, memory, poetics and politics.

In the past three decades, there has been a growth in transitional justice measures aimed at redressing historical atrocities and contemporary human rights abuses. Truth and reconciliation commissions have been central to these processes. Truth Commissions have become popular mechanisms for bringing about national dialogue, reconciliation and peaceful co-existence in societies torn apart by egregious violence and collective trauma. Since the 1990s over fifty truth commissions have been established across the world. The key goals of truth commissions as a transitional justice mechanism are accountability, reparation, reconciliation, memorialization, conflict resolution and democratic participation. Truth commissions aspire to create safe, non-partisan and compassionate spaces for both victims and perpetrators to tell stories of conflictual events. For victims of atrocities, the stories they tell function to grant them both a voice and recognition of their trauma, and hence physical and psychological recuperation. For perpetrators, stories have their own social and therapeutic value too as they serve as confessional narratives, allowing them to tell their truths as part of a wider process of national healing and reconciliation.

Scholars and practitioners have noted the centrality of storytelling to transitional justice processes. Stories are crucial to transitional justice work because they allow for the democratization of dreadful secrets, enabling combustible memories and buried knowledges to be excavated and shared in the public domain. While storytelling in truth commission work may allow victims, perpetrators and communities to construct collective memories of the past as a prelude to national repair, truth commissions in their focus on reconciliation have also been critiqued for fostering impunity, eroding human rights, trivializing violations, and failing to provide “real” justice to victims.

This conference will examine truth-seeking and reconciliation as an exercise in storytelling. We are interested in exploring certain questions: What kinds of stories are told in truth commission hearings and other transitional justice processes? Who tells these stories and how are they recounted? What kinds of rhetorical strategies are deployed by the narrators – victims, perpetrators, or witnesses – in telling their stories, and what are the effects of these modes of telling? How are these stories reported by the media? What are the discourses embedded in the varied narratives of the reconciliation actors? How do the public performances or dramatizations of story-telling function to further or hinder justice, healing and state-building?

We invite scholars from across disciplines interested in addressing these questions to submit proposals to join us at this conference. We are seeking proposals that explore the following sub-topics:
• Fictions of National Healing and Reconciliation
• Stories as the New Archives in the Era of Truth Commissions
• Popular and Media Representations of Transitional Justice
• Theatre, Performance, and Questions of National Reconciliation
• Narratives of Women in Truth Commissions
• Indigenous Narratives of Transitional Justice
• Youth Narratives and Generational Contestations
• Photography, Spectacle and the Staging of National Reconciliation
• Literature, Testimony and Memorialization
• Cultural Representations and Nation-making

Please email proposals/ abstracts and a short CV by April 20, 2020 to: Dr. Melike Yilmaz:
Limited funding is available to assist scholars from the Global South with travel costs

Organized by the Confronting Atrocity Project, the Centre for Human Rights and Restorative Justice, the Centre for Community Engaged Narrative Arts and the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University, Canada

Dr. Bonny Ibhawoh – McMaster University, Canada (Project Director)
Dr. Paul Ugor – Illinois State University, USA (Conference Lead)
Dr. Melike Yilmaz – McMaster University, Canada (Research Coordinator)

Contact Info:
Dr. Melike Yilmaz (Research Coordinator)

For more information about the Conference  and Confronting Atrocity Project