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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: December 2020

Chapter 2 - Advancing a Feminist Analysis of Transitional Justice


This chapter advances an ongoing conversation among feminist scholars engaged in transitional justice theory and practice about what constitutes a feminist theory of transitional justice. It takes as its departure point the critical questions posed by Bell and O’Rourke in their provocative essay asking ‘where are women, where is gender, and where is feminism in transitional justice’.

This chapter suggests that the feminist presence in transitional justice theory and practice is complex and multi-layered. Moreover, the full relevance of feminist theorisation is only slowly being revealed though ongoing engagement and critique. Before one can even identify a feminist thread to transitional justice practices and engagement one starts with the engagement of women qua women in the public and political arenas in which the terminology of accountability emerged in repressive and conflicted states. To do so, this chapter undertakes a genealogy of feminist presence in transitional justice scholarship. Inter alia, I address where the work of transitional justice scholarship more broadly defined has touched directly upon issues with evident gender dimensions.

The identification of women's interests with transitional justice practices has a short record. Only relatively recently has a distinctly feminist language and methodology emerged. As feminist engagement deepens, it meets a field that is rapidly expanding, and that has both the fortune and disadvantage of being termed an ‘industry’. The growth of transitional justice is both an opportunity and a warning. A new context gives rise to new opportunities, ideas and sites of intervention and action. Equally, newness often hides deep pitfalls of structural and entrenched gender discrimination. These snares have the tendency to come repackaged in the transitional context giving hope for gender transformation but rarely delivering. Feminists would do well to pause and reflect on the state of the field, and think about how best to proceed forward? How to avoid the constant sense of just catching up to the where the field has expanded to? How to think about framing a feminist vision of transition that is not only responsive to expansion and opportunity but could actually frame on its own terms the basis of engagement?