Trauma and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions
Trauma, in the contemporary period, has expanded beyond the medical realm and come to feature in political processes; most notably in post-conflict processes such as transitional justice mechanisms. However, despite their significant role in politically fragile environments, there exists very little debate concerning how trauma is conceptualised by these processes. In response to the absence of debate, this thesis seeks to problematise trauma, drawing on the case study of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), by posing the following question: how is trauma conceptualised in contemporary politics, and what role does it play in post-conflict environments? Through a critical analysis of the TRC and in-depth qualitative fieldwork, this thesis explores the meaning and significance of trauma in South Africa, integrating the lived experiences of individuals and communities. In emphasising the lived experience, this thesis challenges the divide between theory and practice which permeates the International Relations trauma scholarship.