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Participatory Methodologies with Victims: An Emancipatory Approach to Transitional Justice Research

  • Simon Robins (a1) and Erik Wilson (a2)
Abstract
Abstract

Transitional justice seeks to address legacies of violence around political transition from authoritarianism and armed conflict. It does so in ways driven by a global discourse that is prescriptive and often remote from the contexts in which it is articulated and the populations it claims to serve. Transitional justice is also embedded in teleological liberal approaches to transition, with a perceived endpoint of liberal democracy. Critical approaches to transitional justice have used qualitative methodologies to understand the agendas of those—notably victims of violence—that transitional justice foregrounds, and to demonstrate that transitional justice mechanisms often serve elite agendas, while minimizing the agency of socially excluded populations. An alternative, minimally explored route to victim engagement with such processes has been the mobilization of victims and victim organizations, an emancipatory approach that seeks to provide a space for victims to engage in transitional justice debates on their own terms. Here, a research engagement with a victims’ organization through a Participatory Action Research modality is described in which researchers support victim engagement in peer research to catalyze a social movement of victims in post-conflict Nepal.

Résumé

La justice transitionnelle vise à résoudre les problèmes passés de violence accompagnant les transitions politiques hors de régimes autoritaires et de conflits armés. Issue d’un discours mondial prescriptif, la justice transitionnelle est souvent étrangère aux contextes dans lesquels elle est appliquée et aux populations qu’elle est censée servir. La justice transitionnelle est souvent ancrée dans une approche libérale téléologique à la transition dont l’aboutissement est censé être une démocratie libérale. Les analyses critiques de la justice transitionnelle ont appliqué des méthodologies qualitatives pour connaître les vraies aspirations de ceux que la justice transitionnelle met de l’avant—notamment les victimes de violence—et pour démontrer que les mécanismes de justice transitionnelle servent les visées des élites tout en écartant la participation des populations socialement marginalisées. Une autre méthode, sous-employée, d’obtenir la participation des victimes, est de mobiliser les victimes et organisations de défense des victimes, une approche émancipatoire qui vise à donner aux victimes leur propre champ de participation aux débats de justice transitionnelle. Dans cet article, l’on décrit une initiative de recherche auprès d’une organisation de victimes fondée sur le modèle Participatory Action Research (« Recherche d’action participative ») dans laquelle les chercheurs encouragent la participation des victimes dans la recherche auprès de leurs pairs en vue de catalyser le mouvement social des victimes au Népal post-conflictuel.

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1 While transitional justice today takes place largely in countries emerging from conflict, its origins lie in transitions from authoritarianism.

2 McEvoy Kieron and McGregor Lorna, “Transitional Justice from Below: An Agenda for Research, Policy and Praxis,” in Transitional Justice from Below: Grassroots Activism and the Struggle for Change, edited by McEvoy Kevin and McGregor Lorna (Oxford: Hart, 2008).

3 Gready Paul and Robins Simon, “From Transitional to Transformative Justice: A New Agenda for Practice,” International Journal of Transitional Justice 8, no. 3 (2014): 339–61.

4 E.g., Robins Simon, Families of the Missing: A Test for Contemporary Transitional Justice (London/ New York: Routledge, 2013); Lundy P. and McGovern M., “Participation, Truth and Partiality,” Sociology 40, no. 1 (2006): 7188; Madlingozi Tshepo, “On Transitional Justice Entrepreneurs and the Production of Victims,” Journal of Human Rights Practice 2, no. 2 (2010): 208–28.

5 Simon Robins and Ram Kumar Bhandari, From Victims to Actors: Mobilising Victims to Drive Transitional Justice Process (Kathmandu: NEFAD, 2012), http://www.simonrobins.com/NEFAD_From%20victims%20to%20actors%20-%20Research%20report.pdf (accessed October 13, 2014).

6 E.g., The Danish Institute for Human Rights, The Human Rights Education Toolbox (Copenhagen: DIHR, 2012), http://www.friskoler.dk/uploads/media/HRE_Eng.pdf.

7 Roque Sandra and Shankland Alex, “Participation, Mutation and Political Transition: New Democratic Spaces in Peri-Urban Angola,” in Spaces for Change? The Politics of Participation in New Democratic Arenas, edited by Cornwall Andrea and Coelho Vera Schattan P. (London: Zed Books, 2007).

8 Some argue that action research is necessarily participatory, but here this emphasis seems appropriate.

9 Hinton Alexander L., Transitional Justice: Global Mechanisms and Local Realities after Genocide and Mass Violence (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2010); Shaw Rosalind and Waldorf Lars, Localising Transitional Justice: Interventions and Priorities after Mass Violence (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010).

10 See for example Lederach on “elicitive” process. (John P. Lederach, “Building Mediative Capacity in Deep-Rooted Conflict,” Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 26, no. 1 (2002).

11 See however: Catherine Barnes, “Owning the Process: Public Participation in Peacemaking,” ACCORD (London: Conciliation Resources, 2002).

12 Robins, Families of the Missing, 2.

13 Sagi Nani, German Reparations: A History of the Negotiations (Tel Aviv: Magnes Press, 1980).

14 Bouvard Marguerite Guzman, Revolutionizing Motherhood: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Oxford: SR Books, 1994); Bosco Fernando J., “The Madres de Plaza de Mayo and Three Decades of Human Rights’ Activism: Embeddedness, Emotions, and Social Movements,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 96, no. 2 (2006).

15 Makhalemele Oupa, Southern Africa Reconciliation Project: Khulumani Case Study (Cape Town: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, 2004); Brandon Hamber et al., “Speaking Out: The Role of the Khulumani Victim Support Group in Dealing with the Past in South Africa,” 2000, http://www.brandonhamber.com/publications/pap_khulumani.doc.

16 Madlingozi, “On Transitional Justice Entrepreneurs and the Production of Victims,” 2.

17 See also Briony Jones’s discussion of the need to unsettle “expert knowledge” in her article “Stories of ‘Success’: Narrative, Expertise, and Claims to Knowledge, in this special issue.

18 Brandon Hamber, “Evaluating Projects and Programs for Reconciliation and Transformation: Experiences from the Field,” (Paper presented at the Evaluating Experiences in Transitional Justice and Reconciliation: Challenges and Opportunities for Advancing the Field Workshop, Cape Town, April 2–4, 2007).

19 E.g. OHCHR, Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring (New York and Geneva: UN OHCHR, 2001).

20 Humphrey Michael, “Reconciliation and the Therapeutic State,” Journal of Intercultural Studies 26, no. 3 (2005): 203–20; Douzinas Costas, The End of Human Rights: Critical Legal Thought at the Turn of the Century (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2000).

21 Quantitative work is also used to produce knowledge on the occurrence of the violence itself; see for example Price and Ball in this issue.

22 Gibson James L., “Taking Stock of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Assessing Citizen Attitudes through Surveys” in Assessing the Impact of Transitional Justice: Challenges for Empirical Research, edited by Merwe Hugo van der, Baxter Victoria, and Chapman Audrey R. (Washington, DC: USIP Press, 2009).

23 On limiting transitional approaches see for example Robins Simon, “Whose Voices? Understanding Victims’ Views in Transition,” Journal of Human Rights Practice 1, no. 2 (2009): 320–33.

24 On advancing neo-liberal agendas see the following, where the authors seek to measure the quality of transitional justice process in terms of volume of foreign direct investment: Appel Benjamin J. and Loyle Cyanne E.The Economic Benefits of Justice: Post-Conflict Justice and Foreign Direct Investment,” Journal of Peace Research 49, no. 5 (2012).

25 E.g. Tricia D. Olsen, Leigh A. Payne, and Andrew G. Reiter, Transitional Justice in Balance: Comparing Processes, Weighing Efficacy (Washington, DC: USIP Press, 2012).

26 Brandon Stewart and Eric Wibelhaus-Brahm, “Quantitative Approaches to Societal-Level Transitional Justice Impact: What Have We Learned?” (Paper presented at ISA National Conference 2013).

27 McEvoy K., “Letting Go of Legalism: Developing a ‘Thicker’ Version of Transitional Justice,” in Transitional Justice from Below: Grassroots Activism and the Struggle for Change, edited by McEvoy K. and McGregor L. (Oxford: Hart, 2008). This comes from the anthropological approaches of Clifford Geertz, where the concept of “thick description” implies scholarship that is complex, multi-layered and actor-oriented, in contrast to “thin” approaches that are narrowly descriptive and positivistic.

28 Schatzberg Michael G., “Ethnography and Causality: Sorcery and Popular Culture in the Congo,” in Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power edited by Schatz Edward, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

29 E.g. Robins, Families of the Missing, 2; Millar Gearoid, “Between Western Theory and Local Practice: Cultural Impediments to Truth-Telling in Sierra Leone,” Conflict Resolution Quarterly 29, no. 2 (2011); Gibson James L., “Does Truth Lead to Reconciliation? Testing the Causal Assumptions of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Process,” American Journal of Political Science, 48, no. 2 (2004): 201–17.

30 Cornwall Andrea and Jewkes Rachel, “What is Participatory Research?,” Social Science and Medicine 41, no. 12 (1995): 1667.

31 E.g. Cornwall Andrea, “Locating Citizen Participation,” IDS Bulletin 33, no. 2 (2002).

32 Chambers Robert, “The Origins and Practice of Participatory Rural Appraisal,” World Development, 22, no. 7 (1994): 953–69.

33 Ibid.

34 Williams Glynn, “Evaluating Participatory Development: Tyranny, Power and (Re)politicization,” Third World Quarterly 25, no. 3 (2004): 557–78.

35 Mansuri Ghazala, and Rao Vijayendra, Evaluating Community-Based and Community-Driven Development: A Critical Review of the Evidence (Washington, DC: Development Research Group, The World, 2003).

36 Ibid.

37 Rappaport Robert N., “Tavistock Experience Three Dilemmas in Action Research,” Human Relations 23 (1970): 499.

38 Checkland Peter and Holwell Sue, “Action Research: Its Nature and Validity,” Systemic Practice and Action Research, 11, no. 1 (1998).

39 Root Michael, Philosophy of Social Science: The Methods, Ideals, and Politics of Social Inquiry (London: Blackwell, 1993).

40 Rahman M.A., “The Theoretical Standpoint of PAR,” in Action and Knowledge, edited by Fals-Borda O. and Rahman M. A. (New York: Apex Press, 1991), 1323.

41 Greenwood Davydd J., Whyte William Foote, and Harkavy Ira, “Participatory Action Research as a Process and a Goal,” Human Relations 46, no. 2 (1993): 175–92.

42 Blakely Heather, Pearce Jenny, and Chesters Graeme. Minorities within Minorities: Beneath the Surface of South Asian Participation (York, UK: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, December 2006), http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/minorities-within-minorities-beneath-surface-community-participation.

43 Ginty Roger Mac, “Everyday Peace Indicators: An Alternative Form of Assessment,” in Innovation in Operations Assessment: Recent Developments in Measuring Results in Conflict Environments, edited by Williams Andrewet al. (Norfolk, Virginia: NATO, 2013).

45 Goodale Mark, “Introduction: Locating Rights, Envisioning Law Between the Global and the Local,” in The Practice of Human Rights: Tracking Law Between the Global and the Local, edited by Goodale Mark and Merry Sally Anne, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

46 Robins, Families of the Missing, 2.

47 In the Nepal study, victims involved in data collection were called “peer researchers,” as they principally researched their peers in the victims’ group.

48 P. Freire., Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 1970).

49 Conflict Victims’ Committee, Building a Family Association: Lessons Learned (Bardiya: CVC, 2012) (Nepali).

50 Robins and Bhandari, From Victims to Actors, 3.

51 Robins Simon, “Transitional Justice as an Elite Discourse: Human Rights Practice Where the Global Meets the Local in Post-Conflict Nepal,” Critical Asian Studies 44, no. 1 (2011): 330.

52 Mackenzie Catriona, McDowell Christopher, and Pittaway Eileen, “Beyond ‘Do No Harm’: The Challenge of Constructing Ethical Relationships in Refugee Research,” Journal of Refugee Studies 20, no. 2 (2007): 299319.

53 Pam Bell, “The Ethics of Conducting Psychiatric Research in War-Torn Contexts,” in Researching Violently Divided Societies: Ethical and Methodological Issues, edited by Marie Smyth and Gillian Robinson (London: Pluto Press, 2001); Bennis Warren G., 1966. “Changing Organizations,” Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 2, no. 3 (2001): 247–63.

54 Kohrt B. and Harper I., “Navigating Diagnoses: Understanding Mind–Body Relations, Mental Health, and Stigma in Nepal,” Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 32 (2008): 462–91.

55 J. Marrato, “Superando os Efeitos Sociais da Guerra em Mocambique: mecanismos e Estrategias Locais.” (Paper presented at the fourth Congress of Lusophone Social Sciences, Rio de Janeiro, September 1996.)

56 Brydon-Miller Mary and Greenwood Davydd, “A Re-Examination of the Relationship Between Action Research and Human Subjects Review Processes,” Action Research 4, no. 1 (2006): 117128.

* Both authors would like to thank Ram Kumar Bhandari, President of NEFAD, and all district leaders and members who participated in the research exercise in Nepal described here, as well as the Berghof Foundation for supporting the research project whose findings drove much of this article (Grant No. 10050).

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Canadian Journal of Law and Society / La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société
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