Justice Interactions and Peacebuilding

From Static to Dynamic Discourses across National, Ethnic, Gender and Age Groups

How can people address the legacy of inter-ethnic violence and reconcile after mass atrocity crimes?

The founding vision of transitional justice as a field of scholarship and practice that is engaged with different ways post-conflict states address past wrongs is normative. Addressing the legacy of human rights violations and war crimes is supposed to reconcile war-torn communities and advance peace-building.

However, instead of promoting peace and reconciliation, transitional justice practices have often had the opposite impact; they have further divided ethnic communities, distorted the truth about suffering, and traumatised rather than dignified the victims. It is important that we produce robust evidence for claims about the effects of transitional justice, and identify conditions under which transitional justice practices can promote or, alternatively, undermine peace-building.

The JUSTINT project provides a novel way of analysing how post-conflict justice practices advance or hinder peace-building by studying an interactive and dynamic aspect of discourse. Until now, we have relied on statements by politicians, civil society actors or victims to understand their response to post-conflict justice, and studied them as static discourses. JUSTINT turns to the study of communicative exchanges to understand how discussions about the violent past unfold, and to what effect.

The JUSTINT project innovates in the field of transitional justice by studying large volumes of textual data at the level of words and conversational sequences. Quantitative and qualitative text analysis methods are applied to interactions in face-to-face and virtual deliberative domains (courts, parliaments, civil society debates, and in social media) in four former Yugoslav countries: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Croatia.