Issue 4.1


hum.5.1_front_smThis issue hosts a cutting-edge dossier on transitions and reconciliation, curated by Zerrin ����zlem Biner and Sharika Thiranagama, with assistance from John E. Drabinski and Jill Stauffer. It reorients traditional approaches to the topic, not least by stressing the political character of theories of transitional justice and reconciliation themselves, and their consequences for enabling or preempting contestation. Also included in the issue is a photo suite of exceptional images by Murtada Bulbul, alongside an interview with the photographer and a commentary on his work.



In the traditional Indian caste system, the Dalit caste is considered lowest, untouchable, having the fewest advantages. Socially its members have been considered profane by upper castes. Approximately 4.5 million Dalit live in Bangladesh. 65 percent are illiterate and very poor. They still make their living within their hereditary professions, of which swineherding is one. In Bangladesh, swineherds lead an unusual, gypsy-like existence. Their families live in a particular place while the men go out with their herds to various places for feeding, constantly moving, living in tents of bamboo, plastic, and paper. They usually stay three to four days in a given place, sometimes up to a week, depending on the availability of food for their pigs.Read More »

The Storyteller: Observations on Murtada Bulbul's "Swineherders"

This review engages Murtada Bulbul’s series of photographs of Bangladeshi swine herders (published in this issue), casting the photographer’s treatment as that of a storyteller. On one hand, this treatment suggests the importance of visual-cultural forms for the very legibility of human rights. On the other hand, Bulbul’s pictures can teach us something about what it means to live a “bare life,” that is, to live at the edges of the human community.Read More »

Swineherders: An Interview with Murtada Bulbul

Murtada Bulbul shares the story behind his photo essay, as well as his influences, inspirations, and future plans.Read More »

Preface to Dossier on Rethinking Post-Conflict Resolution

Sharika Thiranagama and Zerrin Özlem Biner introduce the dossier.Read More »

Speaking Truth to Reconciliation: Political Transition, Recovery, and the Work of Time

In every scene of political reconciliation there is a complicated set of bad relationships that must be transformed before longterm stability is possible. Successful recovery requires more than the rule of law in stable political institutions. Most theories of transitional justice assume liberalism’s autonomous subject as a background and a goal. However, autonomy cannot instruct us in how to restore it where it has been lost or never gained in the first place. Understanding the subject as vulnerable and responsive to others prior to having the autonomy to choose otherwise better captures both how recovery is possible and why it is always fragile, needing to be revisited over time as the past resurfaces in unexpected ways. Using both philosophy and empirical evidence to demonstrate how worlds are destroyed by mass violence, this essay argues for a more nuanced understanding of the selves who seek recovery, not least because it is they who will accept or reject a new institution of the rule of law.Read More »

"Archetypes of Humanitarian Discourse": Child Soldiers, Forced Marriage, and the Framing of Communities in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone

Transitional justice initiatives that sought to remedy the atrocities committed during the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone articulated particular notions of rights-bearing individuals and collectivities. This article critically examines assumptions about rural life and communities of belonging emerging from such initiatives and about the agency of women and children in particular. The signature indictments at the Special Court for Sierra Leone—for child soldier conscription and forced marriage—contributed to their establishment as archetypal figures in the discourse of humanitarian justice in ways that belied actual trial testimony. In particular, court arguments surrounding the forced marriage question highlighted the sometimes contradictory relationship between human rights and humanitarian law.Read More »

The Logic of Reconciliation: Between the Right to Compensation and the Right to Justice in Turkey

This article analyses the processes and outcomes associated with legal reforms designed to provide restorative justice in the context of contemporary Turkey. Focusing on the practices and discourses associated with the Compensation Law, it explores both state practices and the survival mechanisms of Kurdish citizens living in the conflict zone. The article shows that the Compensation Law did not transform the relationship between the state and Kurdish citizens. Rather, it reproduced the symbolic and material relationships that historically and politically had been based on bribery, disavowal, abuse, and subversion.Read More »

Claiming the State: Postwar Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Civil war in Sri Lanka ended in 2009 with the military defeat of the separatist LTTE. International and local pressure around war crime allegations and the lack of political reform subsequently forced the state to initiate the 2010 Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. This essay first takes the LLRC and the minority response to it to argue that this reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is very little about ethnic reconciliation between communities and instead is a “state performance” in the midst of ongoing violence. Secondly, the essay takes into account everyday relationships between displaced Sri Lankan Tamils returning “home.” The essay argues that long-term reconciliation between former neighbors rests upon the possibility of larger political transformation rather than face-to-face coexistence alone.Read More »

Reconciliation and Founding Wounds

This essay offers a set of reflections on the meaning of reconciliation in the context of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In particular, this essay asks about the relation between ideas of reconciliation and the originating wound toward which reconciliation work is directed. It is here argued that, in the case of the United States, the wound of slavery calls for “conciliation,” not “reconciliation.” If we conceive political community to be a kind of friendship, then the originating wound of the United States (and perhaps the Americas as a whole) calls for a first friendship, not the repair or remaking of relations suggested by the term “reconciliation.”Read More »

Commemorative Economies and the Politics of Solidarity in Shatila Camp

This article examines the politics of Nakba commemoration in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and the instrumentalization of memories of the 1948 expulsion by NGOs and factions. It considers the role eyewitness accounts of the 1948 expulsion play in the production of Palestinian nationalism in exile, as well as the transformations occurring in the way younger generations relate to this critical event. It suggests that Palestine studies may have overemphasized the conceptual potency of nationalist narratives of the Nakba, and that their discursive prominence today more often reflects their role in securing local and international visibility, patronage, and resources than their continuing power to infuse the present and future with meaning for the refugees themselves.Read More »

Inhabiting Unfinished Pasts: Law, Transitional Justice, and Mourning in Postwar Peru

This article examines the possibility of mourning and justice without the body and its implications for political community in the aftermath of state atrocities. It focuses on the forensic exhumation of clandestine mass graves at the military base of Los Cabitos, the headquarters of the 1980s and 1990s counterinsurgency campaign in the Peruvian south-central Andes. These procedures uncovered technologies of body disposal used by the military that made impossible the identification of victims of state terror. In the face of this impossibility, relatives of the disappeared have appropriated the unknown remains to articulate forms of political mourning and justice that speak truth to power through ordinary languages and tropes.Read More »

"That Gesture of Recognition": An Interview with Salomón Lerner Febres

An interview with Salomón Lerner Febres, president of Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.Read More »