How can confronting the past be reconciled with the “messiness” of democratic transitions? Is there an inherent tradeoff between the push for justice and the desire for stability? What role, if any, can the West in particular play in pushing for transitional justice and human rights more broadly during democratic transitions? This theme explores such questions through lectures, films, reading, simulations, and discussions, with a special focus on post-communist Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Japan.
This theme explores core transitional justice mechanisms such as war crimes trials, lustration, amnesties, reparations, and truth commissions. Thus, it includes transitional justice in both post-conflict and post-authoritarian contexts. Cases are drawn from a broad range of geographic contexts that include the former Yugoslavia, East Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa. Students will gain a strong grasp of choices and dilemmas in relation to the design, implementation, and impact of these various transitional justice mechanisms and will critically reflect on the effectiveness of these mechanisms across the case studies.
Politics of Cultural Memory
Commemorations and other political rituals are key components of a nation’s cultural memory, crucial for the construction and reinforcement of ideological, ethnic, economic, gender, and other identities. The construction of cultural memory and cultural identities are central themes of memory studies which analyze the different processes of remembrance and forgetting that occur at the individual, group and societal level. Research in this field has rapidly developed through an interdisciplinary approach over the last twenty years. Students will analyze the leading trends in memory studies through a number of comparative case studies and learn how the politics of the past affects transitional justice initiatives and efforts of reconciliation in post-conflict societies.
Many dictators and authoritarian regimes have been toppled by protests that started in the streets. The fall of several heads of state during the Arab Spring, and the ouster of leaders in the Balkans and Central Europe illustrate this trend. Thus, protesters, often including a large number of youth and artists, have occupied a crucial role in defining the future direction of democratic transitions in post-conflict and post-authoritarian countries. This theme explores questions related to the impact of youth activists and art, such as performance art and street art, among others, to shed light on the power politics and transformations within transitioning societies.
Conflict, Migration and Identity Politics
The Syrian civil war that broke out after peaceful protest during the Arab Spring has fueled a global refugee crisis that has challenged not only political institutions in European Union member states, but also sparked public debates on questions about identity, nationhood and cultural integration in developed countries worldwide. The different issues in this theme are examined through a variety of analytical perspectives, including advocacy, ethnography, history, law, political science and sociology to critically reflect on this pressing international phenomenon.