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Jamar, Astrid (2022) 'Accounting for which violent past? transitional justice, epistemic violence, and colonial durabilities in Burundi.' Critical African Studies, 14 (1). pp. 73-95.

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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Burundi has been mandated to account for colonial and post-colonial violence. To examine such accountability efforts, I deploy a decolonial and legal anthropological approach. Through fieldwork in Burundi, I examine the entanglements between violence, accountability, and coloniality; how specific dynamics of violence and hegemonized norms operate within transitional justice (TJ) practices; and by implication how colonial durabilities reproduce themselves. I document three key findings. First, TJ professionals consolidate hegemonic but contested norms to articulate TJ agendas; norms that then gradually ‘slip’, i.e. the gradual weakening of normative commitments moving the burden of accountability from the State to alleged beneficiaries. Second, regular TJ activities reproduce hierarchies of knowledges marked by the epistemic supremacy of Western legalism and power asymmetries; while side-lining political struggles fought through accountability efforts. Third, criticisms of colonialism have been instrumentalised by the ruling regime through the work of the TRC itself, while violence continues to be used to repress political opponents. Overall, I argue that due to the durable effects of colonialism, the Burundian TRC simultaneously accounts for and inflicts violence. Specifically, as TJ professionals adopt texts and run activities that consolidate hegemonized norms, reproduce colonial tropes and take part in strengthening authoritarianism, colonial logics inform whose norms and knowledge matter, thus inflicting epistemic violence.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Colonial durabilities, epistemic violence, Burundi, accountability, decolonial anthropology, transitional justice
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Development Studies
ISSN: 21681392
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2022 17:27
Funders: Other, Other

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