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GREYZONE Report Summary

Project ID: 637709
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GREYZONE (Illuminating the 'Grey Zone': Addressing Complex Complicity in Human Rights Violations)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The grey zone of bystanders, collaborators and beneficiaries of violence escapes the scope of main Transitional Justice (TJ) institutions and poses tough questions for scholars and architects of post-conflict societies. This interdisciplinary project shifts the focus of academic and political debates by pursuing three objectives: conceptually, it departs from the dominant victim-perpetrator paradigm and theorises the many faces in the grey zone by analysing the interplay between structure and agency; normatively, it argues that no account of TJ is complete without engaging the grey zone; empirically, it tests if, in tackling the grey zone, cinematographic and literary representations can supplement typical TJ mechanisms (trials, truth commissions, lustration). Four cases are analysed: authoritarianism plus military occupation (Vichy France), apartheid (South Africa), totalitarianism (Romania 1945–1989) and military dictatorship (Argentina 1976–1983). The cases provide a variety of contexts of complicity and feature the most frequently used TJ mechanisms. They serve to a) examine the relationship between the official story emerging from state-orchestrated TJ mechanisms and artistic narratives of complicity; b) contextually distinguish disclosive from obscuring artistic representations of the grey zone; c) explore the contribution of these representations to TJ efforts by studying their effect on public debates about—and institutional responses to—the past. Working at the frontiers between political science, philosophy, history, law, literature and cinema, this pioneering project has critical and institutional impact. Critically, it discloses the limits of current TJ theory and practice by emphasising the negative political effects of ignoring general complicity in violence. Institutionally, it seeks to enrich the toolkit of scholars and practitioners by pointing to the potential use of cinema and literature in civic education aimed at deterrence and reconciliation.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Since the inception of the project, the PI has organised and coordinated the following milestones:

I. Recruitment of team members

Through international searches, two post-doctoral fellows and one PhD student have been recruited for the GREYZONE team. Dr Maša Mrovlje and Dr Hugh McDonnell (post-doctoral fellows) and Gisli Vogler (PhD).

Maša’s contribution to the GREYZONE objectives:
1. Responsibility and the GREYZONE: she draws on contemporary political theory to understand and conceptualise judgement, responsibility, complicity, guilt and resistance under the complex circumstances of political violence and oppression;
2. The politics of narrative: she engages philosophical and theoretical insights into the ethical and political potentials of narrative (in literature and cinema) in dealing with ascriptions of responsibility in the GREYZONE;
3. Focus on South Africa: she examines the tension between official and artistic engagements with the GREYZONE of complicity and resistance.

In her work, she combines textual and conceptual analysis with a historically-attuned, narrative approach to the GREYZONE problematic, and draws upon philosophical as well as cinema and political and literary texts.

Hugh’s contribution to the GREYZONE objectives:
1. Responsibility and judgement and the grey zone: he builds on his experience as a historian engaged with political, social and cultural theory to examine how these phenomena have been understood and mobilised by a range of state and non-state actors to make sense of the grey zone of violence and oppression;
2. He is particularly interested in the representation of 'the official story' regarding the memory of the grey zone of Vichy;
3. As part of his research agenda, he examines the politics of narrative, including culture and art’s political role therein. He enquires, for example, what role literature, films, documentaries, exhibitions and ceremonies – both in conjunction with and independent of historians and state actors – have played in foregrounding or obscuring the grey zone.

Gisli’s contribution to the GREYZONE objectives:
1. Responsibility for political action: combining insights from Arendtian and current social theoretical accounts on what it means to be human, his thesis seeks to answer these questions: how can we assume responsibility in politics? What factors determine our judgments and actions in the public sphere? To do so, his thesis develops a theoretical framework which substantiates a theory of reflective judgement with insights on reflexive human agency in late modernity;
2. Case study analysis: The second part tests the merits of the theoretical framework in the case of processes of TJ. Initially focusing on Romania, Gisli analyses the relationship between active human agency and complicity, resistance, and solidarity, as humans engage with the greyzone during the communist regime. For this, his thesis relies on different narrative accounts of the period, which provide the crucial micro-level perspective to illuminate the obscure mediation between structure and agency.

II. Identification of new directions of research:
All members of the research team have been working on reviewing the multiple literatures relevant for this project. We have been studying materials in the fields of transitional justice, arts and political memory, the epistemic value of art, case-study focused analyses in relation to transitional justice processes and artistic production on the subject of these processes. The following themes emerged from the literature review and the analysis of artistic products:
1. Resistance and solidarity as the flipside of complicity – any account of complicity must take these adjacent concepts into account;
2. The need to consider how questions of power, addressed in social theory on power, actively shape the judgement of complicity and require reflection on our narratives about reality and what it means to be human;
3. Complicity with human

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Scientific impact
The work that has already been published, the texts under review and those in preparation – see section above – show that the team is already producing output that goes beyond the literature review. In response to Question 1 in the Continuous Reporting Form, we identified 11 new directions of research. On the basis of those, we have reached the following findings:

1. The concept of the grey zone: we are arguing that the account of complicity, as presented in the legal and moral philosophical literature, is unduly limited as it is individualistic and ahistorical. We are examining several theoretical frameworks that are better suited for our analysis: existential philosophy and its attentiveness to issues of complex complicity in injustice as they arise out of the situated condition of our human political coexistence (Mrovlje); Arendtian accounts of the complexity of judgment when facing evil (Mrovlje, Vogler); social theoretical accounts of power and structure such as those of Margaret Archer and Pierre Bourdieu, attentive to how reflexive humans shape their social context and participate in their own social conditioning (Vogler; Mihai); feminist accounts of oppression, complicity with oppression, resistance and solidarity are yet another untapped theoretical source for thinking through the structural preconditions of individual acts of wrongdoing (Mihai). Bringing these literatures into a dialogue with a view to dislocating the dominant paradigm for understanding complicity (the moral-legalistic paradigm and its ahistorical methodological individualism) will greatly contribute to the literature on transitional justice and memory studies.
2. The pedagogical value of literature and cinema: we are examining three bodies of literature that can help us conceptualise and understand the educational value to citizens of exposure to artworks in general, and artworks that tackle complicity/resistance in particular. Aesthetics (Mihai) and the literature on narrative sensibility (Mrovlje, Vogler) are our two sources for thinking through the epistemic and political function of artworks in the wake of authoritarianism, war and other forms of historical trauma. The rather optimistic accounts emerging from these literatures are calibrated by an attention to the sociology of art production and art consumption (Mihai). In unpacking and systematically outlining how and under what conditions artworks can have political effects, the team is advancing the conversation in two ways: a) we problematise the assumed beneficial role of art in the wake of violence; b) we substantiate and render visible the mechanisms through which artworks affect individuals along several registers (cognitive, affective, sensorial).
3. The analysis of the case studies: we have divided the cases as follows: Mihai (all four of them), McDonnell (France and Argentina), Mrovlje (France and South Africa). Vogler will include several examples from the four case studies (starting with Romania) to illustrate his theoretical contribution to the literature on judgment, responsibility and the possibility of resistance. We have built a bibliography of literary products and films that are differently positioned in relation to the official narrative of transitional justice in their respective country of origin. We are looking at various forms of representing our guiding theme and we are investigating the migration of representational tropes across historical and geographical boundaries.

With regards to the South Africa case study, we are examining how the grey realities of resistance struggle are depicted in several selected novels and films, and how these artistic depictions can provide a critical mirror to and importantly enrich the TRC’s vision of reconciliation. In particular, we are engaging the tragic moral dilemmas and costs of resistant violence, and discuss how our attentiveness to these dilemmas can illuminate the ambiguities of transitional poli

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