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Narratives of "Terror" and Transitional Justice: The Politics of Exclusion


How has the hegemonic narrative of the war on terror impacted the narratives of justice in transitional justice contexts? What stories are told by transitional justice actors, and how do justice narratives interact with or resist national and transnational discourses on the war on terror? To answer these questions, this dissertation develops a narrative approach to transitional justice and then draws on this approach to investigate the impact of the hegemonic narrative of the war on terror on justice narratives, focusing on the transitional justice processes in Tunisia and Mali. Based on fieldwork research as well as an analysis of primary and secondary sources, it argues that the dominant narrative of the war on terror leads to a securitized approach that limits how transitional justice deals with conflict and political violence. Political actors in power with the help of institutional and public narratives exploit this securitized approach to avoid accountability, solidify their power and status, and limit the reach of transitional justice efforts. This results in contestation and a hierarchy in the notions of “violence,” “victimhood,” and “perpetratorship.” The end result is a limited approach that focuses on the communities and people rather than the state and dominant structures of power as the source of “problem.” In Tunisia, although the transitional justice mandate was innovative and broad, a history of vilification and dehumanization of “Islamists,” who constituted the majority of victims, continued throughout the process, leading to contestations of the notion of “victimhood.” In Mali, although the conflict continues and the situation is very complicated in the northern and central regions, a simple narrative has emerged about the conflict and violence. The Malian truth commission has yet to publish its report, but so far, a securitized approach has dominated the transitional justice process as a result of the hegemonic narrative of war on terror. This has resulted in the construction of a hierarchy of “perpetrators,” with “jihadist” groups at the apex of this hierarchy.

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