Breaking the Transitional Justice Machine: Exploring Spatiality, Space Travel, and Inbetween Spaces in Research Practice

Arnaud Kurze, Christopher K. Lamont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This article offers a critical perspective on emerging and alternative spaces for emancipation within transitional justice studies. Taking into account recent critical literature and postcolonial interventions in transitional justice studies, we argue that barriers to moving our understanding of transitional justice forward are both conceptual and methodological. Conceptual hurdles are visible through narrow justice demands often limited to the context of post-conflict and post-Authoritarian settings, thus normalizing injustice in liberal democratic and postcolonial contexts. Methodological impediments exist because transitional justice scholarship operates at a positivist level, or trying to explain certain, and desired, outcomes rather than destabilizing and unsettling unequal power relations. As a result, research practice in the field reflects the perspectives and preferences of elites in transition societies through a legal-Technical mechanistic imagining of transitional justice that we refer to as the transitional justice machine. We argue that the needs and voices of marginalized social actors, particularly within states that are largely defined as liberal democratic or postcolonial, have long been ignored due to these practices. Against the backdrop of evolving agency patterns, including widespread global protest and demands to deal with the past across countries, we zoom in on a variety of actors who, until now, have not been at the focus of transitional justice studies. Drawing on a variety of case studies, this article contributes to the critical understanding of transitional justice studies as a Bourdieusian field. First, by expanding the conceptual lens to include racial, socio-economic, and postcolonial injustice, and, second, by advancing a more critical methodological approach that puts at its center unequal power relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-178
Number of pages24
JournalPolitical Anthropological Research on International Social Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • accountability
  • agency
  • decolonization
  • emancipation
  • methodology
  • power
  • spatiality
  • temporality
  • transitional justice


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