Prof. Dr Susanne Buckley-Zistel

Alumni Senior Fellow

Research Project at the Centre

Transitional Justice as a Travelling Norm. On the Influence of Local Concepts on Global Ideas

Within the field of peacebuilding, questions about the suitability and appropriateness of the introduction of the so-called liberal peace in post-conflict contexts have been debated for some time. Notions such as hybridity or global frictions seek to capture the encounters between external interveners and local agents and offer a foil against which to discuss degrees of adaptation, amendment, resistance or rejection. This is also relevant for transitional justice as one of the instruments of the ever-growing peacebuilding and democratisation toolbox. The direction of these academic investigations is mainly from the global to the local, from the outside to the inside. The objective of the proposed research project is to turn this form of global cooperation research on its head. Instead of focusing on how global norms such as transitional justice effect ‘the local’, it examines how local norms effect ‘the global’.

In order to do so, it analyses how transitional justice norms of the so-called global South travel upwards to the so-called West. It asks if and how Southern norms and their entrepreneurs influence the conceptualisation of Western transitional justice practitioners and scholars. Do Western normative frameworks change as a result of the encounter?

The project seeks to contribute to the critical literature on transitional justice in particular, and peacebuilding and democratisation in general, by offering an alternative understanding of how norms travel. By tracing and assessing the influence of Southern norms – in all their heterogeneity – it endows local transitional justice entrepreneurs with a degree of agency in the context of peacebuilding and democratisation discourses which often regard them merely as victims of, and subjected to, global norms.


April 2015 – March 2016