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Week 10: Transitional Justice and Memory

Content warning: The material for this section contains testimonies of torture, abuse and gendered violence.

Transitional Justice and Memory

How have ideas about rights been changed and shaped by processes of transitional justice?

What questions an issues arise in the process of transition?

What are the issues with truth commissions themselves?

Core readings:

Greg Grandin, “The Instruction of Great Catastrophe: Truth Commissions, National History and State Formation in Chile, Argentina and Guatemala,” American Historical Review, 110:1, 2005, 46-67.

Paige Arthur, 'How "Transitions" Reshaped Human Rights: A Conceptual History of Transitional Justice", Human Rights Quarterly 31:2 (2009), 321-367.


Cath Collins, Jemima Garcia Godos and Erin Sarkar, Transitional Justice in Latin America: The Uneven Road toward Accountability. London: Routeledge, 2016. (Introduction, Conclusion and a chapter on the country that interests you.)

You can hear a recording of Cath Collins talking about the book when it was launched at UCL, here.

Primary Sources:

Peru: Abbreviated Truth Commission Report, Hatun Willakuy and Quipu Project

Argentina: Nunca Mas, 1984

Chile: Rettig Commission Report, 1990

Guatemalan Peace Accords, 1996

Torture in Brazil: A Shocking Report on the Pervasive Use of Torture by Brazilian Military Governments, 1964-1979 (ILAS Special Publication: Catholic Church Archdiocese of Sao Paulo et al, 1998)

Primary source activity:

Look at the MRC catalogue for the Amnesty archives on Guatemala and Argentina. Think about a potential essay title on the subject of transitional justice. How would you go about planning an archive visit to research for the essay?

Amnesty International Archive on Guatemala, 1999-2009. MRC.

Amnesty International Archive on Argentina, 2000-2011. MRC.

Thinking about public history (Practical Written Assignment):

Watch the 2017 film about the Peace Festival with activists from Peru and Colombia. How effective is it as a piece of public history?

Researching Memory and Research Ethics:

What kind of ethical considerations do researchers need to take into account when working on past human rights abuses? Read the interview with Francesca Lesa. What does she say about this?

Confronting South America’s Violent Past: An Interview with Human Rights Scholar Dr Francesca Lessa, Oxford Latin America Centre

Further Reading:

Jelke Boesten & Helen Scanlon. Gender, Transitional Justice and Memorial Arts: Global Perspectives on Commemoration and Mobilisation (1st ed.). Routledge, 2021.

Roddy Brett. The Politics of Victimhood in Post-Conflict Societies. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Bueno-Hansen, Pascha. Feminist and Human Rights Struggles in Peru : Decolonizing Transitional Justice, University of Illinois Press, 2015. 

Cath Collins, Jemima Garcia Godos and Erin Sarkar, Transitional Justice in Latin America: The Uneven Road toward Accountability. London: Routeledge, 2016.

Cath Collins. Post-Transitional Justice: Legal Strategies and Human Rights Trials in Chile and El Salvador. (University Park: PA: Pennsylvania State University, 2010)

Nina Schneider and Marcia Esparza (eds.) Legacies of State Violence and Transitional Justice in Latin America : A Janus-Faced Paradigm? Marcia Esparza, Lexington Books, 2015.

Rachel Sieder. Impunity in Latin America. 1996.



NACLA Report on the Americas, 3:1 1999, 6-10.

Lisa J. Laplante "Memory Battles: Guatemala's Public Debates and the Genocide Trial of Jose Efrain Rios Montt." Quinnipiac Law Review (QLR), vol. 32, no. 3, 2014, pp. 621-674.


Monica Acosta García, "Law and Globalization: the “multi-sited” uses of Transitional Justice by Indigenous Peoples in Colombia (2005-2016)." Oñati Socio-legal Series [online], 8 (5), 2018 760-787.

Fabio Andres Díaz Pabón (ed.). Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in Colombia: Transitioning from Violence. Routledge, 2018.

Mark Freeman and Iván Orozco. Negotiating Transitional Justice: Firsthand Lessons from Colombia and Beyond. Cambridge University Press, 2020.

James Meernik et al.(eds.) As War Ends: What Colombia Can Tell Us About the Sustainability of Peace and Transitional Justice. Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Podcast: Why Truth and Justice Matter in Colombia, Expert Panel, Transitional Justice Institute Ulster University

The Southern Cone:

Rebecca Atencio, Memory's Turn: Reckoning with Dictatorship in Brazil. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.

Naomi Roht Arriaza, The Pinochet Effect: Transnational Justice in the Age of Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

Leigh A. Payne. Unsettling Accounts: Neither Truth Nor Reconciliation in Confessions of State Violence. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2008. Introduction and conclusion (Chapter Scan)

Roniger, Luis, and Mario Sznajder. The Legacy of Human-Rights Violations in the Southern Cone: Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Steve J. Stern. Reckoning with Pinochet: The Memory Question in Democratic Chile 1989-2006. Duke University Press, 2010.

Jose Zalaquett. “Balancing Ethical Imperatives and Political Constraints: The Dilemma of New Democracies Confronting Past Human Rights Violations.Hastings Law Journal, no. Issue 6, 1991, p. 1425.


Francine A’ness, “Resisting Amnesia: Yuyachkani, Performance, and the Postwar Reconstruction of Peru,” Theatre Journal 56 (2004): 395–414

Jelke Boesten. Sexual violence during war and peace : gender, power, and post-conflict justice in Peru. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Matthew Brown and Karen M. Tucker, 2017, ‘Unconsented Sterilisation, Participatory Story-Telling, and Digital Counter-Memory in Peru’. Antipode, vol 49., pp. 1186-1203.

Edward Chauca, “Mental Illness in Peruvian Narratives of Violence after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Latin American Research Review 51, no. 2 (2016): 67–85.

Joseph P. Feldman, “Exhibiting Conflict: History and Politics at the Museo de la Memoria de ANFASEP in Ayacucho,” Anthropological Quarterly 85, no. 2 (2012): 492-

Jocelyn Getgen, “Untold Truths: The Exclusion of the Enforced Sterilizations from the Peruvian Truth Commission’s Final Report,” Boston College Third World Law Journal 29, no. 1 (Winter 2009)

Eduardo González Cueva, “The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Challenge of Impunity,” in Transitional Justice in the Twenty-First Century, Beyond Truth Versus Justice, ed. Naomi Roht-Arriaza and Javier Mariezcurrena. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Anne Lambright, Andean Truths: Transitional Justice, Ethnicity, and Cultural Production in Post-Shining Path Peru. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2015.

Lisa Laplante, “The Peruvian Truth Commission’s Historical Memory Project: Empowering Truth-Tellers to Confront Truth Deniers,” Journal of Human Rights 6 (2007): 435.

Laplante, Lisa J., and Kimberly Theidon. '"Commissioning Truth, Constructing Silences: The Peruvian Truth Commission and the Other Truths of "Terrorists".' Mirrors of Justice: Law and Power in the Post-Cold War Era, edited by Kamari Maxine Clarke and Mark Goodale, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009, pp. 291–315.

Cynthia Milton, “At the Edge of the Peruvian Truth Commission: Alternative Paths to Recounting the Past,”Radical History Review 98 (Spring 2007): 14;

Cynthia Milton, “Defacing memory: (Un)tying Peru’s memory knots,” Memory Studies 4, no. 2: 190–205.

Thomas Pegram, “Accountability in Hostile Times: The Case of the Peruvian Human Rights Ombudsman 1996–2001,” Journal of Latin American Studies 40, no. 1 (2008): 51–82

Rebecca Root. Transitional Justice in Peru. 2012.

Margarita Saona. Memory Matters in Transitional Peru. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014.

Hillel Sofier and Alberto Vergara. Politics after Violence: Legacies of the Shining Path Conflict in Peru, New York, USA: University of Texas Press, 2021.

Kimberly Theidon, Intimate Enemies: Violence and Reconciliation in Peru. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Some films and podcasts:

The Secret in Their Eyes. Dir. Juan José Campanella Argentina, 2009.

Nostalgia for the Light. Dir. Patricio Guzmán. Chile, 2010.