Adopting a Resistance Lens

An Exploration of Power and Legitimacy in Transitional Justice

in Conflict and Society
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  • 1 University of Basel julie.bernath@swisspeace.ch
  • 2 Independent researcher sandra.rubli@gmail.com
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ABSTRACT

Drawing from the critical scholarship on transitional justice and from studies of resistance, this article brings together different observations of resistance, including different sets of actors, forms and motives of resistance, and analyzes their implications for power and legitimacy in contexts of transition. The article argues that the analytical value of resistance lies in the original vantage point it provides for an engagement with questions of power and legitimacy that inform transitional justice processes, but that are often difficult to identify on an empirical level. In doing so, it proposes a “resistance lens,” that is, an explicit focus on resistance that is based on a relational understanding to resistance, in order to move beyond simplistic conceptions of resistance in transitional justice scholarship that mainly approach resistance as resulting from a lack of political will of the powerful elite to implement supposedly universal transitional justice models.

Contributor Notes

JULIE BERNATH is a PhD fellow at swisspeace and the University of Basel, Switzerland. Her research focuses on resistance(s) to transitional justice in Cambodia and is part of the research project “Resisting Transitional Justice? Alternative Understandings of Peace and Justice,” funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (2012–2015). She has a master’s degree in political science from Sciences Po Paris, France. Prior to joining swisspeace in 2012, she worked in the Public Affairs Section of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

SANDRA RUBLI is an independent researcher, and since 2014, she has worked in Burundi for the Civil Peace Service, a program of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), as a technical adviser on transitional justice. She graduated with a master’s degree in political science from the University of Bern in 2007 and with a PhD in political science from the University of Basel in 2016. Between 2006 and 2014 she worked for swisspeace as a researcher and program officer in the conflict early warning program FAST, the competency center for peacebuilding KOFF, and the Dealing with the Past Department. Her PhD research focuses on transitional justice and state-formation in Burundi.

Conflict and Society

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