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Out with the Old, In with the New: Youth-Led Approaches to Transitional Justice from Tunisia

Robinson, Lawrence

In response to the institutionalisation of the transitional justice field, and its predilection towards top-down approaches, it has been increasingly recognised that informal methods and marginalised groups can play important roles in catalysing a broader process of transitional justice. Nevertheless, the roles of young people in these processes have often been disregarded and dismissed by scholars and practitioners alike. Tunisia represents a critical case to test the idea that young people, specifically youth activists, might be seen as a resource in transitional justice processes. Young Tunisians have been hailed domestically and internationally as the revolutionaries that sparked a transition to democracy, yet in the transitional process, “youth” have been repeatedly classified as too politically disengaged and inexperienced to affect the processes of democratisation and transitional justice. These reductions of youth agency mirror the simplification of transitional justice to a process of legal and political contest and neglect the role that youth, as a marginalised community, might play in catalysing a process of transitional justice via less formal methods. Drawing from field research conducted in Tunisia from June to August 2019, this study finds that, as young Tunisians were marginalised from the official processes of transitional justice, they actively sought and offered alternative approaches that were critical to a much broader, societal project of pursuing transitional justice from the bottom up. Specifically exploring young activists’ command of the street and use of the arts, the paper sheds light on the value of informal methods in catalysing the process of truth-telling, demanding accountability, and the imagination of justice, as well as the important role of youth in orchestrating these alternative methods of justice-seeking that have been so critical to the fiercely contested transition in Tunisia.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Mouradian, Khatchig
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
August 25, 2020