Keywords: transitional justice; reconciliation; memory; Hannah Arendt; human rights.
This paper asks why the theme of resistance has been largely, though not entirely,
excluded from the theory and practice of transitional justice. It argues that the theme
of resistance is awkward for transitional justice because of the way that transitional
justice institutions have invoked notions of helplessness, innocence, and obedience
in order to challenge various forms of denial and frame their own contributions to
political reconciliation. As a result, transitional justice institutions have construed
responsibility in very narrow terms, and lost, forgotten or actively buried lessons from
the past that might offer guidance in advancing their political goals. The second section
of the paper draws on Arendt's discussion of exemplary validity to consider how
the theme of resistance might be integrated into the theory and practice of transitional
justice. The paper concludes by reflecting on how the discussion might inform a
conceptual distinction between "transitional justice" and "post-conflict justice."