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New article by Anne Menzel and Mariam Salehi: Global Hierarchies and Unequal Pressures in the Report-Making of Truth Commissions

News from May 27, 2024

Anne Menzel, Mariam Salehi, Global Hierarchies and Unequal Pressures in the Report-Making of Truth Commissions, International Studies Review, Volume 26, Issue 2, June 2024

Abstract:

In this analytical essay, we situate truth commissions as relevant sites for International Relations (IR) research, in particular on professional communities and knowledge hierarchies. With an empirical focus on report-making, we argue that there is a need to rethink and revise established professional community concepts. While these concepts stress professional communities’ detachment from mundane pressures, we suggest a “pressure lens” to better grasp the key dynamics of expert knowledge production. Based on in-depth interpretive research on three truth commissions—in Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Tunisia—we set out to identify key dynamics in the report-making of truth commissions that contribute to the gap between high expectations and sobering realities regarding truth commissions as “victim-centred” policy instruments. Understanding the dynamics at play requires us to pay attention to unequal pressures—such as time and funding pressures, powerholder interference, and demands voiced by victims and survivors—that bear on the work of experts and professionals who produce truth commission reports. We argue that these pressures and, crucially, the ways in which they tend to play out under conditions of coloniality, are expressions of global hierarchies that shape professional report-making work.

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