General Introduction



The twentieth century saw an unprecedented number of major wars, conflicts, and massive human rights violations. From each emerged the desire to make sense of the recent past (and present) by imagining new ways of dealing with such events. Be it to prevent new forms of violence, or to punish the persons responsible of past horrors, various solutions have been imagined, deployed, implemented, and discussed, at different levels. The idea for this volume originated from a workshop organized by the authors in Paris in May 2008. The workshop’s aim was a collective discussion on the categories and concepts used in a growing and multifaceted literature devoted to legal and non-legal procedures intended to deal with the past in a post-conflict or post-authoritarian context. The book is a reflection on the social and historical construction, appropriation, and circulation of categories, norms, and savoir-faire related to the way social groups and institutions—state, judiciary, professional organizations—confront traumatic events. First, since there is a robust literature on purges and other mechanisms intended to deal with an authoritarian or violent past, written by authors belonging to numerous disciplines and exploring different periods and topics with a variety of theoretical and methodological backgrounds, it is only prudent to sketch the main tendencies in this literature.


Criminal Justice International Criminal Court Transitional Justice Democratic Transition Legal Category 
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Copyright information

© T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, and the authors 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre Maurice HalbwachsÉcole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)ParisFrance
  2. 2.Institut des sciences sociales du politiqueCentre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)NanterreFrance

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