The Transitions of Transitional Justice: Mapping the Waves From Promise to Practice

Transitional justice is facing a kind of inverted “paradox of success”: The less effective its mechanisms seem to be in their efforts to build democracy and peace, the more we are demanding from them. This article chronicles the intellectual evolution of the field and its current efforts to address what are perceived to be the conceptual shortcomings of the approach. In doing so, it shows that to overcome its perceived limitations, and measure more precisely the effectiveness of its mechanisms, scholars are looking outside the paradigm to address how transitional justice may be more successful and lasting in repairing and restoring states and societies wrought with violence and human rights abuses. In mapping out the “transitions” of transitional justice and contemporary efforts to move the field forward, I argue that to better understand its effectiveness, we need to examine its impact on not only the short-term tensions of addressing victims’ claims but also on the long-term goals of creating conditions that secure the peace and prosperity of peoples.