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Durham Law School

Listening for Justice: An Interdisciplinary Conversation

09.15am - 4.00pm

Birley Room, Hatfield College.

Event Programme

Further Information:

‘Transitional Justice’ is defined by the United Nations as the range of mechanisms and processes associated with a society’s attempts to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation. It is a field with relatively recent origins, but one that has grown exponentially to become a dominant discourse in international law and politics. The premise of transitional justice in scholarship and in practice is that delivering justice for victims can help them to forgive and move on. In this way justice mechanisms are often connected with the goal of achieving social and political reconciliation. And yet research shows that many victims feel that they cannot forgive because they feel their voices have not been heard and their suffering has not been acknowledged. Rather they feel that society is moving on without them and that they have been forgotten. This raises questions as to the effectiveness of existing transitional mechanisms in hearing victims. While legal scholarship and practice has engaged with the question of victim participation, efforts to provide a greater role for victims in transitional justice processes remain constrained by rules of procedure that remain concerned with proving the guilt of the accused. In contrast, scholars from other disciplines have engaged with questions of victimhood, resentment, forgiveness and remorse in ways which are pertinent to the operation of transitional justice but which are rarely acknowledged by those working within the mainstream of the field. This workshop proposes an interdisciplinary conversation structured around four published monographs all of which address similar themes but from different disciplinary perspectives.


Professor Jill Stauffer (Haverford College, USA)

Jill Stauffer is a philosopher who has articulated a theory of ‘ethical loneliness’ to help understand why some victims feel let down by transitional justice processes. Central to her thesis is the proposition that victims do not feel that justice has been done if they do not feel that their experiences have been heard and acknowledged. The ability of transitional justice mechanisms such as trials and truth commissions to actually hear what victims are saying is therefore crucial in advancing justice. Her book, Ethical Loneliness: The injustice of not being heard, was published by Columbia University Press in 2015.

Dr Catherine Turner (Durham Law School)

Catherine Turner’s research explores, from a legal perspective, the relationship between law and justice in transitional justice. In particular it identifies why law has to date been unable to meet the justice needs of victims. It considers the strategic nature of legal advocacy and the expectations it places on victims within the transitional justice process. The research calls for a deeper engagement with the individual needs of victims, reflected in a deeper listening to how demands for justice are articulated. Her book, Violence, Law and the Impossibility of Transitional Justice, was published by Routledge in 2016.

Professor Anthony Bash (Durham University)

Professor Bash is an honorary professor of theology specialising in questions of forgiveness and remorse. His research questions the conditions in which victims are able to forgive injustice suffered. It speaks directly to core questions of transitional justice such as whether or victims can be expected to forgive as the price of peace, and how post-transitional societies can accommodate victims who are unwilling or unable to forgive. His book, Forgiveness: A Theology, was published by Cascade Press in 2015.

Dr Sara Ramshaw (Exeter University)

Sara Ramshaw’s interdisciplinary research explores how principles of improvisation used in music can encourage deep listening among legal professionals. Her work contributes to an increasing body of academic research that explores the need for listening in law and the relationship between listening and justice. Her book, Justice as Improvisation: The Law of the Extempore, was published by Routledge in 2013.