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Law, History, and Political Violence


Module description

Some argue that histories of violence, genocide, trauma, slavery and colonial appropriation should be left in the past, freeing future generations from acts and omissions that are not their own. But history is stubborn and persistent, manifesting itself in the present through injuries that cannot be compensated, benefits that cannot be disgorged, violence for which there is no reparation.

In what ways, then, are historical injustices and memories of these events addressed by law? What is the relationship between history, law and justice? What does it mean to do justice to the past? Is justice a question of putting things right, compensation, finding the truth or punishing perpetrators? How is law constitutively tied to the (in)justices of the past?

In this module we will consider these questions. Drawing on case studies related to how law structures and reflects memorial practices across the world, we introduce a range of strategies and devices through which law responds to the problem of justice. We will explore multiple mechanisms that attempt to address violence, trauma and justice in post-conflict and post-colonial societies, as well as the memorial aspect of the law.

Learning objectives

By the end of the module, you will be able to:

  • draw on interdisciplinary materials to examine cases and other legal texts
  • read complex cases and link them to debates and discussions in the humanities
  • examine juridical problems through various texts drawn from outside law
  • examine social relations as a problem of doing justice to the past.