Violence has many detrimental consequences; among these, it can damage relationships between citizens and the state that failed to protect them or directly perpetrated violence. In this context, states increasingly implement policies during transitional periods to address wounds from conflict and to shore up support for the new regime. My dissertation examines how these policies – called transitional justice– shape subsequent patterns of political behavior.
I argue that participation in different transitional justice policies can alter the psychological cost of engaging with the state, affecting individuals’ patterns of political activity. In cases where policies are well-implemented and perceived as a faithful attempt to address wrongdoing, transitional justice policies can increase institutionalized political activity, such as voting. When policies are considered inadequate or poorly executed, they can heighten a sense of collective victimhood and injustice. In these cases, TJ participation can also increase noninstitutionalized activity, such as protests, or individuals’ tendencies to withdraw from political life altogether, depending on their relationship to violence and prior political leanings. Therefore, while transitional justice can persuade resistant pockets of the citizenry to return to political life, its effects can vary by policy and individuals’ relationship to political violence.
I test these arguments by analyzing material reparations, domestic prosecutions, and institutions of memory, such as museums and memorials, in the Chilean post-dictatorship context. Drawing on textual, survey, and qualitative data collected through 12 months of fieldwork, I find that surviving victims and family members’ political engagement changes following transitional justice participation. Additional evidence from administrative data and innovative causal identification strategies suggest that increases in political activity are common but uneven, depending on the nature of transitional justice participation and class of victim.
This project suggests that understanding the legacies of violence necessitates understanding the transitional justice landscape. Further, it documents how transitional justice can shape micro-level behaviors, which can have implications for reversions to conflict and consolidation of peace.
Funding sources: United States Institute of Peace, Innovations for Poverty Action (Peace and Recovery), Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, Multi-Center Graduate Grant in Politics, Project in Latin American Studies, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies
Dissertation committee: Alisha Holland, Jacob Shapiro (chair), Brandon Stewart, Deborah Yashar