Aporias of justice and possibilities of redress in contemporary African contexts

Elliot Ross (Columbia University)
Aditi Surie von Czechowski (University of Cambridge)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Contemporary demands for justice in African contexts may preclude substantive social reordering towards meaningful justice when tied to human rights. This panel foregrounds critical interdisciplinary reflections on the question of redress. What aporias emerge in claims for reparative justice?

Long abstract:

With the displacement of sovereignty as the paradigmatic question and the dissipation of revolutionary fervor in the postcolonial moment, demands for substantive justice in African and other contexts often operate in a constrained atmosphere. Questions of reparations and human rights are focused on bodily harm, and may thus preclude substantive social reordering towards economic and gender justice (Comaroff and Comaroff 2012, Meister 2012). Examples include the recent "Mau Mau" veterans reparations case against the United Kingdom, anti-cutting campaigns in Ghana (Hodzic 2017) and the work of the International Criminal Court in relation to the Lord's Resistance Army. This panel invites critical interdisciplinary reflections focusing on political, literary/cultural, vernacular discourses of claim-making in order to highlight different perspectives on the question of repair and redress. What are the aporias that emerge in contemporary claims for reparative justice? What alternative idioms for justice exist beyond the letter of the law, and what purchase do such idioms have? How might claims grounded in languages like transnational law and transitional justice be turned upon themselves, tinkered with, or otherwise reconfigured? What are the difficulties of attempting to specify the political character of demands for repair? Finally, how do we reckon with the possibility that such claims may be reactionary?