The Transitional Justice Imaginary
This introduction, following a Preface describing in narrative form the experience of Uncle San (a fictional Cambodian villager featured in a graphic/comic booklet produced by the Khmer Institute of Democracy (KID) for tribunal outreach—I also refer to him and the KID booklet throughout my book), describes argument of the book and provides a basic overview of the court.The first half of the introduction describes the “transitional justice imaginary,” a set of utopian democratization and human rights ideals suggesting the tribunal will transform authoritarian regimes to liberal democratic societies. The “justice facade” is a metaphor for the manifestations of this imaginary in transitional justice settings like Cambodia. After unpacking the assumptions of this imaginary (teleology, progressivism, universalism, globalism, and binary essentialism) and contextualizing it within the transitional justice (and related democratization, peacebuilding, and human rights) literatures, I offer an alternative approach, phenomenological transitional justice, which focuses on lived experience and practice enmeshed in contexts of power. To understand if international justice has a point in transitional justice settings like Cambodia, I argue it is necessary to step behind the facade to look at its meaning in everyday life and practice.
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