Operationalising transformative justice in transitional societies
: Applying the structural violence reduction matrix in Colombia

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis is situated in the field of transformative justice, conceptualised as a
theoretically distinct development of transitional justice that draws significantly
from work on structural violence. The central argument is that more attention
should be paid to structural violence in transitional societies. In this regard, I
present an analytical tool - the Structural Violence Reduction Matrix (SVRM) - to
evaluate the transformative potential of public policy initiatives adopted in
transitional settings by analysing their diagnostic, process, and outcome
The SVRM is based on rigorous theoretical thinking about key transformative justice principles and their operationalisation into a useable framework for application.
The thesis begins by exploring structural violence, a multi-faceted phenomenon that involves a host of offensives against human dignity (Farmer 2003). Analytical insights from structural violence were applied to TJ mechanisms, emphasising the importance of profound investigation into the societal dynamics that underpin more visible human rights violations during violent conflict and authoritarianism.
I subsequently pilot the SVRM through application to two land initiatives in
Colombia, the land restitution programme and peasant reserve zones (ZRC). Data were collected from primary and secondary documents, expert and participant interviews, and researcher observation during four months of fieldwork. These were analysed in accordance with the analytical categories developed in the SVRM for initiatives’ diagnostic, process, and outcome dimensions. The empirical investigation found variation in transformative potential across dimensions and initiatives, with ZRC somewhat more transformative.
The deeper contribution was to demonstrate SVRM capacity to successfully identify variations in transformative potential. Future work can refine and improve the SVRM as an analytical tool for research that is flexible enough to be applied in a variety of transitional settings while remaining highly attuned to local context. Such application could usefully compare across different TJ mechanisms or different transitional contexts, furthering knowledge of the diagnostic, process, and outcome aspects that promote, and prevent, transformation.
Date of AwardNov 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCath Collins (Supervisor), Rory O'Connell (Supervisor), Kristian Lasslett (Supervisor), Cath Collins (Supervisor), Rory O'Connell (Supervisor) & Kristian Lasslett (Supervisor)


  • Transformative justice
  • Structural violence
  • Transitional justice
  • Rural
  • Land
  • Colombia
  • Social and political mobilisation
  • Restitution
  • Community
  • Transformation

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