Context matters! TJ ‘mosaics’ not blueprints

The ICTJ have published a new volume discussing the importance of context in Transitional Justice implementation: Justice Mosaics: How Context Shapes Transitional Justice in Fractured Societies.


The book is wide-ranging and is the culmination of a multi-year project, including a series of workshops in New York in 2014.  The book stresses the importance of understanding context and argues that, rather than conceiving of TJ as a set of tools, it should be understood as a series of mosaics, or processes arranged according to the circumstances in play.  You can explore the book and associated resources here.
In my chapter on ‘Opportunities and Challenges’ I take what I think is a fairly pragmatic (and moderately pessimistic) approach, that ‘not only important to consider opportunities and challenges in context; it is also important to recognize that both
transitional justice and peace-building are processes of highly contingent and
imperfect transition. Just as there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there is also
no perfect solution to the problem of how to deal with a legacy of abuses, how-
ever context specific.
Dealing with past abuses in a delicate post-conflict setting can be at best complicated and at worst calamitous. The task is to ensure that we err on the side of the former, not the latter. Above all, we need to be realistic about what transitional justice can achieve, and honest about what it cannot.’

CfP: Reconciliation After War (Crimes): Historical Perspectives

Interdisciplinary workshop, King’s College London, 30 November – 1 December 2017.

Reconciliation is often cited as a key objective in the aftermath of violent conflict, where goals of peace, justice and reconciliation are seen as not only complementary but mutually reinforcing. But it is often unclear what, precisely, is meant by reconciliation, how, exactly, different activities and processes might foster reconciliation, and at what level (individual, community, group, state, inter-state). Moreover, whilst there has been attention to reconciliation internationally in the contemporary era and much discussion about the relationship between processes of transitional justice and reconciliation in contemporary contexts, little is known or written about how reconciliation has been practised (or not) in the past. Has reconciliation ever truly been achieved, or is reconciliation better understood as a trajectory to which there is no ‘end-state’? This workshop will bring together historians and others from different disciplines to explore the concept and practice of reconciliation in different periods in the past and in different cultural, geographical and historical contexts to explore, inter alia, these questions:


  • How has reconciliation been conceptualised and practised across time and space – in different regions of the world and throughout history?
  • What factors have affected the success or failure of attempts to achieve post-conflict reconciliation?
  • How have parties addressed issues of accountability, reparation, punishment, forgiveness, mercy, repentance and grace?
  • How has reconciliation been resisted? Where and by whom?


We invite contributions that address these themes from a wide variety of perspectives, and historical eras – ranging from the English and American Civil Wars to more contemporary histories drawing on twentieth century experience around the globe. We welcome submissions from artists, practitioners, PhD students, early career researchers and established scholars. We anticipate publishing those papers selected for the workshop in an edited volume/journal special edition.


Please send your paper proposal to Henry Redwood ( by 31 May 2017, including:

  • Name, affiliation and contact email.
  • Title and 250-word abstract
  • A brief biographical note


This workshop is part of an AHRC-funded project, Art and Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community, a major collaborative initiative involving an inter-disciplinary team of investigators at King’s College London, the London School of Economics and The University of the Arts in London. The research is funded under the Conflict Theme of the Partnership for Conflict Crime and Security Research (PaCCS), an initiative of Research Councils UK, and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). For more information, contact or see

Art & Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community

Our latest project, ‘Art and Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community’ is an innovative collaboration between King’s College London, the London School of Economics and the University of the Arts in London that aims to improve our understanding of a major current and future global security challenge.

This inter-disciplinary project combines history, conflict resolution methodologies, art and creative practice, and both qualitative and quantitative social sciences. The expert team of investigators include Dr Rachel Kerr and Professor James Gow of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, Dr Denisa Kostovicova of the Department of Government, London School of Economics, and Dr Paul Lowe of the London College of Communication, University of the Arts in London. In addition, the project has its own Artist-in-residence, Dr Milena Michalski, and will work closely with NGO project partners in the Western Balkans to shape its design, production and delivery.

The research is funded through the Large Grant scheme of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the Conflict Theme of the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research (PaCCS) and through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

For more information, contact: @rachelclarekerr

Whither Transitional Justice? US policy, past experience and future prospects

Zachary Kaufman in conversation with Rachel Kerr

Monday 9 May, 1200-1330

War Studies Meeting Room, K6.07

King’s Building, Strand Campus

King’s College London

Zachary D. Kaufman, JD, Ph.D., is a Fellow (starting July 1, Senior Fellow) at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government as well as a Visiting Fellow at both Yale Law School and Yale University’s Genocide Studies Program. From 2014 to 2015, he served as a Fellow at the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to academia, he worked on transitional justice issues while serving at the U.S. Departments of State and Justice, the UN International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and for the Former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Court. He is the author or editor of three books: United States Law and Policy on Transitional Justice: Principles, Politics, and Pragmatics (2016); Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Atrocities: Changing Our World (2012); and After Genocide: Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, and Reconciliation in Rwanda and Beyond (2009).


The Visual Jurisprudence of Transition: Art at the Constitutional Court in South Africa

Tuesday 1 November, 1300-1400

War Studies Meeting Room, K6.07, King’s Building, Strand Campus, King’s College London

Speaker: Eliza Garnsey, University of Cambridge

Chair: Dr Rachel Kerr, King’s College London

The Constitutional Court of South Africa stands on the site of several former notorious prisons where ‘virtually every important political leader in South African history from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela as well as scores of ordinary South Africans caught in the web of colonial and apartheid repression’ (Segal, 2006) were once imprisoned. The Court is symbolically significant—representing South Africa’s transition—and physically significant—establishing a spatial precedent for how to address the past in building the future. The building is a unique space by international comparison, not only because it has transformed the penal site, but because it integrates artworks into the fabric of the architecture and houses a large visual art collection developed by and for the Court. These artworks draw attention to individual, collective, and time-based narratives which play a role in a shaping the larger ‘unity in diversity’ narrative at the Court, understood as a new kind of ‘visual jurisprudence’ which, in such close proximity to the Court, inhabits a unique position where the assumptions of justice and what it means to uphold the Constitution in a ‘new’ South Africa can be probed.

Eliza Garnsay is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the University of Cambridge, where her research focuses on transitional justice and art in ‘post-apartheid’ South Africa.

To register: