Finding a voice: silence and its significance for transitional justice

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On the surface at least, silence appears to have no obvious or legitimate place within transitional justice. The latter is about voice and about truth-telling, about creating a factual record of what happened. The core aim of the article, however, is to demonstrate that silence is highly relevant to transitional justice. To develop this argument, it explores two possible and interrelated functions of silence – as a form of resistance and as a survival strategy. Conceptualizing silence as a form of absence, and emphasizing a dialectical relationship between silence as being and becoming, the article underlines the transformative possibilities of silence and their significance for transitional justice. In particular, silence can aid in the development of more agentic and contextually sensitive ways of dealing with the past. A major challenge for transitional justice, thus, is to find ways of allowing silence to ‘speak’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-378
Number of pages24
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • absence
  • agency
  • being–becoming
  • resistance
  • silence
  • survival strategy
  • transitional justice


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