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Bosnian Bones, Spanish Ghosts: 'Transitional Justice' and the Legal Shaping of Memory after Two Modern Conflicts


The proposed research entails an ethnographic study of two contemporary cases of post-conflict reconciliation: one, the Bosnian case, where international intervention ended conflict in a stalemate and went on to instigate a decade-long process of transition; and the other, the Spanish case, where a nationally-contrived pact of silence introduced an overnight transition after Franco's death a pact now being broken nearly seventy years after the country's civil war concluded. Both societies witnessed massive violations of international humanitarian law. Both societies are presently exhuming, identifying and re-burying their dead. But their trajectories of transitional justice could not have been more different. This project will investigate how Law shapes cultural memories of wartime atrocity in these contrasting scenarios. How do criminal prosecutions, constitutional reforms, and international rights mechanisms, provide or obfuscate the scales into which histories of violent conflict are framed? Does the systematic re-structuring of legislative and judicial infrastructure stifle recognition of past abuses or does it create the conditions through which such pasts can be confronted? How does Law shape or inflect the cultural politics of memory and memorialisation? And most importantly, how should legal activity be weighted, prioritised and sequenced with other, extra-legal components of peace-building initiatives? The ultimate goal of this project will be to mobilise the findings from the two field-sites to suggest a more nuanced assessment of Law s place in transitional justice. Arguing that disparate historical, cultural and legal contexts require equally distinct approaches towards social healing, the research aims to produce a Post-Conflict Action Framework an architecture of questions and concerns, which, once answered, would point towards context-specific designs for transitional justice programmes in the future.

Call for proposal

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Lewisham way
SE14 6NW London
United Kingdom

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London Inner London — East Lewisham and Southwark
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Sarah Lynn Wastell (Born Haller) (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Justin Davin-Smith (Mr.)
EU contribution
No data

Beneficiaries (1)