Conceptualizing Participation in Transitional Justice: An Analytical Framework for Paradigmatic and Aparadigmatic Cases

Ms. Elke Evrard

Much has been written about the potential of participatory approaches to entrench and expand transitional justice processes. Yet, evidence-based research on how to understand, organize and evaluate victim participation has lagged behind. Empirical research, moreover, often lacks an explicit conceptualization of participation or adopts existing models that start from an institutional perspective and that normatively hierarchize forms and functions of participation. We argue instead for an actor-oriented analytical framework that outlines participants’ trajectories throughout the transitional justice ecosystem. This framework invites for a more rigorous investigation of (a) participants’ identities and interests, (b) the spaces they navigate, (c) the relation between various interests, spaces and temporalities, and (d) the open-ended nature of outcomes. The framework lends itself to application in a wide range of contexts, from paradigmatic to aparadigmatic cases and facilitates a different way of understanding impact, rooted in local actors’ multidirectional, context-specific and non-linear engagement with transitional justice.