From agency to root causes: addressing structural barriers to transformative justice in transitional and post-conflict settings

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Transformative justice has emerged as a new practice agenda for
addressing structural and systemic violence in post-conflict and
post-authoritarian societies. This article is situated at a critical
juncture: while the emerging scholarship has focussed on
community agency and action, there is little as yet that has
explored the social structures and relations in transition societies
that are harm-generating and which constrain action. We argue
that a critical social science, grounded in realist social theory,
systems thinking and complexity theory, have a vital role to play in
rendering transparent the relations and structures that resist change. New knowledge about the ‘root causes’ of harm is both conceptually innovative and useful to practice, helping practitioners identify societal arrangements in need of change and informing strategies for action. This article illustrates the approach through its application to a study with poor farmers in post-Revolution Tunisia.
The article should be of interest to researchers and practitioners in transitional and transformative justice, conflict and post-conflict, peacebuilding, and security sector reform, who are engaged with understanding and addressing issues of structural and systemic violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-576
Number of pages17
JournalContemporary Social Science
Issue number5
Early online date4 Sept 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Author(s). Published by InformaUK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Transitional justice; social sciences; root causes; structures; post-conflict; transformative justice

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