Temporal Governance: The Times of Transitional Justice

In: International Criminal Law Review
Zinaida MillerSchool of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University, 400 South Orange Avenue, South Orange, NJ 07079, USA,

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This article describes the ways in which transitional justice work has helped constitute a predominant narrative about time in relation to violence, memory, and judgment. It suggests that transitional justice practices, institutions and discourses have coalesced into a form of ‘temporal governance’, which privileges a limited conception of the relationship between time and justice. Temporal governance posits linear progress narratives premised on ruptures between past and present and distinguishes traumatic, proximate pasts available for justice from more distant, irretrievable ones. These features potentially lead not only to less robust versions of the past but to more anaemic visions for the present and future. In the process, transitional justice practices may also marginalise accounts of multiple and plural temporalities. The article also discusses contemporary movements that attempt to defy the predominant form of temporal governance, particularly those focused on both the historic harms and continuing violence of colonialism, settler-colonialism, and slavery. These movements also reveal the difficulties of challenging temporal assumptions about intergenerational and structural harm, benefit, and responsibility. Precisely because the past is so central to contemporary struggles for justice, it is all the more important to scrutinise which past is centred, who defines it, and how it is remembered, judged, recognised, and mourned.

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