A two day workshop and a public conference hosted by the Department of Anthropology of the University College London on the 23rd and 24th of October 2014. This event is sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the TEPSIS Research Program on Historical and Social Sciences of Politics (EHESS and CNRS – Paris).
In studies of large-scale violence, one area remains under explored: investigations in contexts of impunity, where the unchanged political and social order engendered by conflict or state repression, and the high-ranking position of past perpetrators offer no conceivable possibility of transition. While on-site research on such past episodes is perilous such as in Indonesia or in Colombia, or impossible, such as in Iran, this does not exclude empirical studies based on oral history and processes of truth telling.
The study of violence in contexts of impunity invites us to pay closer attention to existing projects of truth telling and truth seeking carried out by civil societies. These projects are initiated outside of state-endorsed institutional processes, be they national or international, and challenge hegemonic narratives. They mainly comprise of two sets of interrelated practices: documentation projects and databases on human rights violations, and international peoples’ tribunals (modelled upon the 1960’s Russell Tribunal on American War Crimes in Vietnam). Such are the cases, amongst many others, of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir, the International People’s Tribunal on State Crimes in Iran, or the Centro Nacional de Memoria Historica documenting killings, disappearances and abduction in Colombia.
Truth telling in contexts of impunity provides access to data, informants, and empirical material. It is also an enlightening object of study for understanding how silenced but shared experiences of violence are transformed into public knowledge and acknowledgement, outside the frames of sovereignty, legitimacy and legality that organize political life at the national and international level. Both scholars of law and the social sciences have worked along various processes of truth telling, and produced analyses of such initiatives. This conference aims to examine these case studies in a comparative perspective, and within a dialogue with social scientists involved in documentation databases and projects, but also with legal scholars who have been participating in, or studying the phenomena of civil society tribunals. It will, for the very first time bring together scholars involved with these issues from the five continents.
For more information and registration, please visit the following website: http://truthtellingtruthseeking.com