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Reviewed by:
  • Feminist Perspectives on Transitional Justice: From International and Criminal to Alternative Forms of Justice ed. by Martha Albertson Fineman and Estelle Zinsstag
  • Rosemary Nagy (bio)
Martha Albertson Fineman and Estelle Zinsstag, eds, Feminist Perspectives on Transitional Justice: From International and Criminal to Alternative Forms of Justice (Cambridge: Intersentia Press, 2013).

As one of the few edited collections specific to gender and feminist issues in transitional justice, Feminist Perspectives on Transitional Justice contributes to this important topic within an ever-growing and increasingly self-reflective field. Indeed, I plan to include a couple of excellent chapters (Maisel and Haynes) in my transitional justice syllabus for an undergraduate course in gender studies. However, taken as a whole, the volume suffers from insufficient editing. One fairly inconsequential, but nonetheless irritating, result is a volume riddled with typographical errors and, in some cases, grammatical and syntax errors that obscure meaning. Of greater consequence is the quality of chapters, which ranges from weak, to adequate, to strong. Admittedly, this variability is not uncommon in edited collections. But a heavier editorial hand could have strengthened some contributions and also streamlined some of the repetition across chapters. Finally, while the book’s wide range of topics is definitely a strength, it would have benefitted from greater integration or explanation with the objectives of cohesion and cementing the book’scontribution as a whole.

In terms of the content of the chapters, the volume includes chapters that interrogate the limits and possibilities of international criminal law (O’Rourke, Ní Aoláin, Hansel, and Phelps); the theoretical contours of intersectionality (Gray and Levin and Rooney); the mobilization of victims groups after the Second World War (Ling); forays into restorative justice (Zinsstag); the lack of integration of gender in the Greensboro and other truth commissions (Maisel); the exclusion of women from peace processes in Uganda (Wasonga); gender integration in the Bosnia police force (Muftić and Rašić’); neo-liberalism and human trafficking in Bosnia (Haynes); and domestic violence in Cuba, the United States, and South Africa (Weissman and Goldscheid).

Fineman and Zinsstag suggest that the book’s “eclectic approach enables the reader to more fully assess the theoretical and practical array of possibilities for the development of gender specificjustice.”1 Agreed, but it would have been helpful [End Page 464] to have this drawn out for the reader in a substantive introduction that identifies connections, challenges, and themes. I see this as a missed opportunity. In the following, I will attempt to identify some of the themes and questions that occurred to me while reading Feminist Perspectives on Transitional Justice.

First, “justice as recognition” is a constant theme in the volume. This is not only in terms of the simple failure of transitional justice, and international criminal law in particular, to recognize gender-based violence but also in terms of theorizing how we might engender transitional justice. “Recognition” involves a “different kind of justice”2 that is attuned to the layers of oppression and exploitation that women face and to the “abusive paradigms [that] construct a socio-ontological worldview” that designates women as targets of violence.3 Legal responses alone and individualized remedies are insufficient. Indeed, “the best approach may not be to focus on ‘legal’ rights.”4 The feminist strategy of “adding women” to transitional processes should be “advanced with some caution” due to the risk of simply “providing only the illusion of transformation.”5 Rather, systemic socio-cultural, economic, political, and legal change must be part of any transition that aims to recognize and redress the violence that women experience in their everyday lives. These are not unknown arguments, but they are important and worth repeating.

Second, understanding the intersectional nature of violence and gender-based violence in particular adds weight to what might be termed the “structural critique” of transitional justice. This is the critique of transitional justice’s tendency to focus on certain types of violence—for example, torture, murder, disappearance, and rape—to the exclusion of root causes and gendered, socio-economic effects. Humanitarian intervention operates on a “crisis model” that fails to analyze the history of a crisis, its causal factors, or the everyday violence that women experience.6 In international criminal tribunals...


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