During one week, from 3 to 7 April 2017, the 33 participants in the first Transitional Justice Spring School discussed the roles of culture and memory in transitional justice contexts, a relatively unexplored field of transitional justice.
‘The goal of this spring school was to broaden the perspective. Transitional justice is often associated only with trials and truth-commissions. Memory and culture play however a significant role in dealing with a violent past and show ways to prevent their recurrence. The spring school was aimed to provide a platform to hear these other stories’ underlines Thomas Unger, Co-Director of the Master of Advanced Studies in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law (MTJ) at the Geneva Academy.
Students of our MTJ, students from the Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nuremberg and external participants discussed with leading experts and practitioners the roles that culture as ‘memory work’ plays in contexts of transitional justice, whether cultural initiatives - public memorials, theatre performances, film screenings and photo exhibitions - ‘work’ as avenues for coming to terms with the past and preventing future atrocities, the role of education and history in processes of social transformation, whether there is a duty to preserve memory, and the potential contribution of archives in this respect.
Highlights during the week include the opening by prominent speakers such as Mô Bleeker, the Swiss Special Envoy on Dealing with the Past and Atrocity Prevention and Professor Christoph Safferling from the Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nuremberg. Professor Nancy Adler from the University of Amsterdam gave the closing lecture with an incredible insight on the question of processes that deal with the Soviet past. Throughout the week, leading lecturers, including Regula Ludi, Clara Ramírez-Barat, Elisabeth Baumgartner, Raphael Jakob, Pierre Hazan and Merilin Piipuu shared with participants their views regarding the role of culture, memory, archives and memorialization in transitional justice processes.
Beside the lectures in the morning, participants also had the opportunity to conduct on-sight visits to organizations in Geneva - the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the archives of the League of Nations at the Palais des Nations - and in this respect could engage directly with practitioners and their work.
‘The spring school took an inter-disciplinary approach and included experts from various backgrounds, such as anthropology, history, law, journalism and political science. This allowed participants to grasp with different dimensions of dealing with the past’ stresses Frank Haldemann, Co-Director of the MTJ at the Geneva Academy.
Participants also had the opportunity to assist to cultural events through the screening of the film ‘impunity’, directed by Juan Lozano, which looks at transitional justice processes in Colombia and a cultural performance of the theatre of transformation organized by Rama Mani.
The Transitional Justice Spring School is a special one-week course that discusses cutting-edge issues in transitional justice.
It forms part of the MTJ, a unique and innovative programme that combines high-level academic education and real-world practice in the field of transitional justice. One of the very few courses on this subject in Europe, it focuses on an expanding field where there is a strong need for well-trained professionals.
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Olivier Chamard / Geneva Academy
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