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Gendered Narratives: Stories and Silences in Transitional Justice

Abstract

Stories told about violence, trauma, and loss inform knowledge of post-conflict societies. Stories have a context which is part of the story-teller’s life narrative. Reasons for silences are varied. This article affirms the importance of telling and listening to stories and notes the significance of silences within transitional justice’s narratives. It does this in three ways. First, it outlines a critical narrative theory of transitional justice which confirms the importance of narrative agency in telling or withholding stories. Relatedly, it affirms the importance of story-telling as a way to explain differentiated gender requirements within transitional justice processes. Second, it examines gendered differences in the ways that women are silenced by shame, choose silence to retain self-respect, use silence as a strategy of survival, or an agential act. Third, it argues that compassionate listening requires gender-sensitive responses that recognize the narrator’s sense of self and needs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In part two of this article, I show how silence also can be an act of agency.

  2. 2.

    See www.youtube.com/npeacenetwork.

  3. 3.

    See Porter (2012) for a discussion of gender-inclusivity in transitional justice in Timor-Leste.

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Porter, E. Gendered Narratives: Stories and Silences in Transitional Justice. Hum Rights Rev 17, 35–50 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12142-015-0389-8

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Keywords

  • Compassionate listening
  • Gendered narratives
  • Narrative agency
  • Silences
  • Stories in transitional justice