Body memories as a neglected legacy of human rights abuses: Exploring their significance for transitional justice

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Memories are a crucial part of transitional justice work. However, consistent with the fact that the field has significantly neglected bodies (except in the sense of what has been done to them), complex body memories that both reside in and spill over from individual bodies have received little attention. This interdisciplinary article aims to address this gap and thus to foreground the fact that bodies tell their own stories. What enhances their storytelling potential in this regard is their relationships and interactions with their wider social ecologies. Fundamentally, body memories have important social dimensions that make them highly relevant to transitional justice. Drawing on qualitative interviews with victims-/survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia and Uganda, the article’s core argument is that transitional justice processes should give more attention to body memories and to the potential they offer for developing the field in new embodied directions.


Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Early online date30 Sep 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Sep 2020


  • Body memories, conflict-related sexual violence, embodiment, social dimensions, transitional justice