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  • Cited by 10
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2019
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:
Law in Context

Book description

In the aftermath of mass conflict how is it possible to address violent and traumatic pasts, reconcile divided nations, and strengthen state institutions? This study explores the connections between transitional justice and visual art in order to answer that question. Garnsey argues that art can engage and shape ideas of justice. Art can be an inquiry into, and an alternative experience of, justice. Art embeds justice on different political levels - both local and global. Art becomes a radical form of political participation in times of transition. Arising out of extensive fieldwork at the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the South Africa Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which included 130 interviews with key decision makers, the book provides the first substantive theoretical framework for understanding transitional justice and visual art, and develops novel conceptions of visual jurisprudence and cultural diplomacy as forms of transitional justice.


‘In this pioneering interdisciplinary book, Eliza Garnsey offers a compelling account of the complex and productive relationship between visual art and transitional justice. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the South African Constitutional Court and at the Venice Biennale, she shows both how the South African state has attempted to mobilise art as an instrument of cultural diplomacy and how art often escapes efforts to harness it, instead opening up new dimensions of experience and novel sources of political and ethical insight.’Duncan Bell, University of Cambridge

‘Firmly rooted in interdisciplinary ground, The Justice of Visual Art offers an exciting and refreshing contribution to ongoing conversations about the role of art in difficult processes of dealing with the past. Garnsey's concept of 'visual jurisprudence' opens a new vista on the complex relationship between legal institutions and the cultural background against which they function. This is a must-read for all students of transitional justice and the politics of memory.’Mihaela Mihai, University of Edinburgh

‘Writing in the wake of debates on visual and aesthetic politics, Garnsey offers a meticulously researched and highly compelling account of how art shapes cultural diplomacy and transitional justice in South Africa.’Roland Bleiker, University of Queensland

‘After the guns have been put aside, the arduous and prolonged business of reconciliation and social reconstruction in post-conflict societies can’t be left entirely to the courts. Garnsey develops a novel understanding of visual jurisprudence as she argues persuasively that the arts have an essential part to play, using two finely crafted case studies.’Charles Jones, University of Cambridge

‘This innovative study contributes to our understanding of the role of art in post-TRC South Africa. By considering deeply state-supported art as more than symbolic reparations and, rather, as visual jurisprudence and as creative state-building, Garnsey makes a strong case for art as foundational to the reconception of the justice system within the country and to the exhibition of contested narratives of the 'new' South Africa to the outside world.’Cynthia E. Milton, Université de Montréal

‘This book makes an important and timely intervention into a burgeoning debate about the relationship of art to transitional justice. Garnsey, rather than focusing on the instrumental potential of art to foster goals of transitional justice, draws our attention to the potential of art to help us make better sense of its core ideas and messy reality. Art allows for expression and contestation, experimentation and creativity; it is 'a radical form of political participation in times of transition'.’Rachel Kerr, King’s College London

'A beautifully curated book concerned with the need to better understand the relationship between art and justice in times of transition.'BISA L.H.M. Ling Outstanding First Book Prize committee, awarding an Honourable Mention.

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