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Performance, Transitional Justice, and the Law: South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Cole, Catherine M.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2007) Theatre Journal. 59(2007)167-187.

How did the TRC’s
performative conventions, modes of address, and expressive embodiment shape the
experience for both participants and spectators? How is performance being used in the
larger field of transitional justice and human rights law? Is performance being embraced
by truth commissions as a means to assimilate traumatic history into public memory,
and, if so, how? Such questions are not only of paramount importance to the world
and to the field of international law and human rights, they are also questions that our
field—theatre and performance studies—is uniquely equipped to answer. Yet to date,
we have not ventured into this field nearly to the degree that one might expect given
the prevalence of “performance” within the discourse and operations of transitional
justice. My objective in the brief span of this essay is not to provide answers, but rather
a more careful parsing of the necessary questions to be asked if theatre and performance
studies scholars are to contribute to the field of transitional justice. I will do so with
particular focus on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (excerpt)


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