Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 22: Transitional justice in post-conflict societies

Phil Clark


In the last 20 years, transitional justice has become a ubiquitous response to conflict or repressive rule. It encompasses both practical and lofty dimensions, seeking to rebuild the physical, political and judicial infrastructure of recovering societies, as well as reconciling fractured communities, reshaping contested memories, and healing emotional and psychological wounds. This combination of pragmatic and profound objectives reflects the enormous ambitions–and tensions–of transitional justice. This chapter explores two main themes. First, it defines and delineates six key concepts in transitional justice. This theoretical section clarifies key terms in this field which are frequently ill-defined and conflated. It also underscores important theoretical tensions that arise wherever transitional societies wrestle with the most appropriate means to move from a conflicted past to a more stable, harmonious future. Second, this chapter addresses some of the key practical and policy debates in transitional justice, which in some cases are linked to the theoretical concerns addressed in Section 22.2. Together, these sections highlight that the enormous aspirations of this field–not least aiming for societal transformation–in the face of horrific conflict and repressive government have led to unclear concepts, untested assumptions and recurring challenges for scholars and practitioners alike.

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