On theorizing transitional justice: responses to Walker, Hull, Metz and Hellsten

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Transitional justice encompasses a global body of scholarship and practice that concentrates on responses to large-scale wrongdoing in the context of an attempted shift from conflict and/or repression. In my book, The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice (2017) I argue that transitional justice is a distinctive type of justice. Transitional justice requires the just pursuit of societal transformation. I define transformation relationally, as the terms defining interaction among citizens and between citizens and officials. Transformation is necessary because of the presence of pervasive structural inequality and wrongdoing. Transformation is a practical possibility because of the uncertainty characteristic of transitions. Processes of transitional justice pursue transformation by dealing with past wrongs. The just pursuit of societal transformation requires heeding the moral claims of victims and moral demands on perpetrators. In this paper, I address four issues raised by Sirkku Hellsten, George Hull, Thaddeus Metz, and Margaret Urban Walker. I first discuss the methodological questions pressed. I then consider challenges to the substantive view of transitional justice I propose. I next turn to queries about the distinctiveness of transitional justice. Finally, I respond to skepticism about the necessity and value of a substantive normative theory of transitional justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-193
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Global Ethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 4 2018


  • Transitional justice
  • compromise
  • reconciliation
  • truth commissions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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