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William Joseph Danaher Jr., Huron University College Faculty of Theology

Confessions, Archives, Witnesses: on Punishment, Theology, and Ethics

“Transitional justice” refers to efforts by international courts, truth commissions, and civil society organizations to address histories of gross human rights violations in order to facilitate democratic transitions. Developed in the 1980s and 1990s, projects in transitional justice have been celebrated for providing reconciliatory approaches that avoid brutalities associated with “victor’s justice.” Drawing from empirical and theoretical research, however, many commentators— among them political scientists, psychologists, philosophers, and anthropologists—have recently argued that, rather than advancing human rights and dignity, the international community uses transitional justice to impose paternalistic, asymmetrical, technocratic, and decontextualized solutions that perpetuate a latently Christian, Western, and liberal understanding of justice. Danaher notes that, where previous studies in Christian ethics have generally supported the goals and methods of transitional justice, his study will draw upon the Christian tradition to address the ambiguities, contestations, and limitations in the goals and methods of transitional justice. He proposes to trace three Christian discourses and practices that have shaped, and still shape, transitional justice in its diverse contexts—confessions, witnesses, and archives. In doing so, Danaher hopes to develop new avenues for theological reflection and ethical action within the wider church. His work will provide the wider community of scholars working in transitional justice with a discursive, rather than institutional, perspective on this field.