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Countering erasure: can the arts contribute to restoring justice in Syria?

This project will explore how artistic expressions can help to restore justice in situations of unabated violence where transitional justice (TJ) initiatives are being implemented. The main question is to what extent artistic practices, and literature in particular, can contribute to TJ efforts and counter the narrative silencing of victims.

Syria is taken as a case study to examine this question. As the Syrian conflict is ongoing, there is no  fully-fledged formal TJ process. Nevertheless, Syrian local activists and international actors are testing certain elements of the TJ toolkit on the ground, such as the documentation of violations of international law and criminal justice.

I will tentatively argue that there is scope to strengthen the current TJ efforts in Syria. The implementation of TJ initiatives might need to be reconsidered in order to guarantee victims’ right to truth and justice, and better assimilate their voices in justice processes. One approach for doing so, is by looking at the ways in which artistic practices can play a role in the development of complementary and innovative avenues toward justice for Syrians beyond trials. I foreground artistic practices based on the hypothesis that they can help to rethink some of the existing TJ architecture by understanding and utilizing the evidence differently, including through truth-seeking initiatives, feeding the transitional imagination in ways that are more representative of the experiences of victims, in order to avoid erasure.


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