Dealing with the Past in a Post-conflict Society: Does the Participation of Women Matter? Insights from Northern Ireland

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Abstract

This article is concerned with the participation of women in dealing with the past, both as a priority for women’s movements and as a practical matter for transitional justice processes. The article aims both to describe and critique a particular set of texts—primarily the 2009 Report of the Consultative Group on the Past in Northern Ireland, but also the documentary interventions made by local women’s organizations into that Report—as well as to open up critical space for similar projects in other areas. Fundamentally, the article asks: does the participation of women matter in dealing with the past? And if so, what difference does it make? The article draws principally on feminist political theory on the participation of women in politics, as well as gender scholarship on conflict and transitional justice, as a theoretical framework for this analysis. The article argues that the conflation of participation as a question of process—that women should, as a matter of justice, be involved in related decision-making—with participation as a guarantee of substance—that women’s participation will lead to a certain set of predetermined outcomes—is both problematic in theory and unhelpful in terms of feminist politics. The article concludes by proposing a novel third way that acknowledges a tentative, though dynamic and evolving, relationship between women’s participation as process and substantive outcomes in dealing with the past, while continuing to ground calls for women’s participation within justice claims.
LanguageEnglish
Pages35-68
JournalWilliam and Mary Journal of Women and the Law
Volume19
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2012

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participation
justice
women's organization
Third Way
politics
Society
women's movement
political theory
guarantee
decision making
gender
Group

Keywords

  • Transitional Justice
  • Feminist political theory
  • Participation
  • Dealing with the Past
  • Northern Ireland

Cite this

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title = "Dealing with the Past in a Post-conflict Society: Does the Participation of Women Matter? Insights from Northern Ireland",
abstract = "This article is concerned with the participation of women in dealing with the past, both as a priority for women’s movements and as a practical matter for transitional justice processes. The article aims both to describe and critique a particular set of texts—primarily the 2009 Report of the Consultative Group on the Past in Northern Ireland, but also the documentary interventions made by local women’s organizations into that Report—as well as to open up critical space for similar projects in other areas. Fundamentally, the article asks: does the participation of women matter in dealing with the past? And if so, what difference does it make? The article draws principally on feminist political theory on the participation of women in politics, as well as gender scholarship on conflict and transitional justice, as a theoretical framework for this analysis. The article argues that the conflation of participation as a question of process—that women should, as a matter of justice, be involved in related decision-making—with participation as a guarantee of substance—that women’s participation will lead to a certain set of predetermined outcomes—is both problematic in theory and unhelpful in terms of feminist politics. The article concludes by proposing a novel third way that acknowledges a tentative, though dynamic and evolving, relationship between women’s participation as process and substantive outcomes in dealing with the past, while continuing to ground calls for women’s participation within justice claims.",
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AB - This article is concerned with the participation of women in dealing with the past, both as a priority for women’s movements and as a practical matter for transitional justice processes. The article aims both to describe and critique a particular set of texts—primarily the 2009 Report of the Consultative Group on the Past in Northern Ireland, but also the documentary interventions made by local women’s organizations into that Report—as well as to open up critical space for similar projects in other areas. Fundamentally, the article asks: does the participation of women matter in dealing with the past? And if so, what difference does it make? The article draws principally on feminist political theory on the participation of women in politics, as well as gender scholarship on conflict and transitional justice, as a theoretical framework for this analysis. The article argues that the conflation of participation as a question of process—that women should, as a matter of justice, be involved in related decision-making—with participation as a guarantee of substance—that women’s participation will lead to a certain set of predetermined outcomes—is both problematic in theory and unhelpful in terms of feminist politics. The article concludes by proposing a novel third way that acknowledges a tentative, though dynamic and evolving, relationship between women’s participation as process and substantive outcomes in dealing with the past, while continuing to ground calls for women’s participation within justice claims.

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