Accepted paper:

From friend/neighbour/lover to perpetrator or victim: the imperfect histories of post-conflict peace-building


Sari Wastell

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines the ways in which institutions committed to ‘transitional justice’ unwittingly invest in a new form of modernisation theory – one predicated on a presumed, shared, progressive chronology and equally shared forms of social responsibility.

Paper long abstract:

The transition from conflict marked by wartime atrocity to durable peace has become a heavily institutionalised business (in every sense). However, the modus operandi of 'transitional justice' contains a fundamental paradox - the commitment to a victim-centric approach to social reconciliation that is always twinned with a bureaucratic and universal vision for peace-building as a sort of new modernisation theory. It is victim-centric so long as victims belong to identifiable groups and the culpable are those who have mobilised their individual free wills to less-than-perfect ends. It is clear that modernisation theory - the fantasy of a progressive chronology - did not pan out so well for its various 'beneficiaries' in the past. Thus, this paper explores the sense of 'shared' history and temporality that both legitimises and belies international, institutionised efforts at conflict and post-conflict management. In particular, it ethnographically mobilises the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina to query the way in which a self-evident acceptance of the individualisation of guilt and the collectivisation of victimhood has been inscribed through legal practice and has confounded an approach that might consider solidarity-building in terms of social relations not predicated on groups and their relation to individuals, but on the sociality that was both the precursor to, and now legacy of, intimate wartime violence.

panel P32
Perfection: histories, technologies, cosmologies