Jaroslava Gajdošová, Ph.D.

Alumni Fellow

Forschungsprojekt am Kolleg

Transitional Justice and Collective Memory between Impunity and Oblivion: Cultural Translation of Global Justice in Czech and East German Postcommunist Transition

Jaroslava’s research project studies phenomenon of justice in a period of postcommunist transition. It focuses on lapses in memory, misinterpretations of past events and miscomprehensions of recent injustices and on how they have produced distorted images of totalitarian past and misinformed its political and cultural reiterations.

Transitional justice begins to take place at a paradoxical moment when a society is caught up between two seemingly dissimilar traumas—one that results from a society’s recent experience with authoritarian regime and the other one that results from a loss of that regime. In postcommunist societies, this dyadic structure of trauma has reverberated in their future trajectories and, among other factors, it facilitated, hindered, or distorted outcomes of reparatory justice. Implementation of transitional justice and molding of collective memory about communism were co-dependent variables that facilitated postcommunist subject’s understanding of a changing social world. Vis-à-vis postcommunist subject, both variables simultaneously operated as structuring and structured structures that organized “categories of perception and schemata of classification” of a rapidly transforming social reality (Bourdieu, 1989:20).  Collective memory and transitional justice operated as structuring structures when they determined which memories about former regime’s injustices will be retained and how these injustices will be classified, interpreted, understood, and punished. In these processes, postcommunist subject (habitus) acted within its positions in the relations of power. In postcommunist societies, power relations were reshaped and sustained on local levels where they informed local authorities’ understanding of transitional justice and those cognitive schemata further shaped local policies and practice of justice. Local practices often blurred a line between just and unjust by rendering injustices of communist regime relative, untraceable, remote or unintelligible.

This research explores cultural contexts of Czech and post-GDR societies in which transitional justice took place and similarities and differences in its outcomes. The research will examine culturally specific understandings of reparatory justice and distinction between justice and injustices, which have resounded in collective memory and in cultural goods through which that memory is sustained. Locus of this research lies in an empirical study of literary and cinematic narratives in the Czech Republic, which have shaped society’s memory of communism and its past injustices and these outcomes will be compared with narrated and practiced memory that has permeated a post-GDR society.


September 2013 – August 2014