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Elective: Memory, Truth and Transitional Justice in Modern World History


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.
The number of participants is limited to 25.


“Over the past generation, all over the world, societies have sought to confront histories denominated in commas and zeroes. Rwandans face a genocide that killed some 1,000,000, Cambodians one that left 2,000,000 dead. Bosnians look back on a death toll of 100,000. South Africa’s truth commission documented some 38,000 human rights violations; Guatemala’s, 55,000. Even where death tolls are lower – Northern Ireland, the Arab-Israeli conflict – other injustices abound and conflict is all-consuming. […] In virtually all of these societies, though, people demand even more: a wider set of measures to ‘deal with the past’, to borrow a phrase prevalent in Northern Ireland. They ask that we examine the stories that the commas and zeroes obscure.” ¹

This course will look into transitional justice processes in different parts of the world to examine the effects of truth and reconciliation committees in nations that went through or are still undergoing a transition from civil strife to peaceful coexistence. By discussing specific examples ranging from the Nuremberg trials to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the Chilean TRC, the Rwandan Gacaca court, and several other cases, students will learn more about those specific conflict and peace negotiations that led to the forming of transitional justice committees and their effects in securing an enduring peace. By studying the different transitional justice processes across the world, students will question the relevance of collective remembrance for peaceful coexistence and the possibility of recovering the historical truth. As such, students will be introduced to theoretical concepts such as ‘collective memory’, ‘public history’ and ‘discourse’ as well as methodological approaches to understanding the past such as ‘oral history’ and ‘narrative history’ in order to discuss the politics of memory.

1) Daniel Philpott, Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 1,2.

Course objectives

The elective courses for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the interdisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral presentation skills:

  1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
  2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
    a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
    b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
    c. using up-to-date presentation techniques;
    d. aimed at a specific audience;
  3. to actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.

Collaboration skills:

  1. to be socio-communicative in collaborative situations;
  2. to provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position;
  3. adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

  1. to collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques;
  2. to analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability;
  3. to formulate on this basis a sound research question;
  4. to design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved;
  5. to formulate a substantiated conclusion.

Written presentation skills:

  1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
  2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
    a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
    b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
    c. using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;
    d. aimed at a specific audience.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Seminars are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. This course includes supervised research.

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 10 EC (1 EC = 28 hours), this equals 280 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending lectures: 2 hours per week x 12 weeks = 24 hours

  • Studying the compulsory literature: 96 hours

  • Completing other (short) assignments: 26 hours

  • Researching and writing the final research essay: 134 hours

Assessment method

Assessment & Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
Presentation 20%
Case Study Essay / Assignment 30%
Final Research Essay (5,000 words, excluding tables and bibliography) 50%

End grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Students who have been active participants in class and submitted the final paper on time, but scored an overall insufficient mark, are entitled to a resit. For the resit, students are given a chance to hand in a new version of the final paper.
In case of resubmission of the final essay (insufficient grade only) the final grade for the essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the final essay.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2017 – 2018.

Exam review

How and when an exam review takes place will be determined by the examiner. This review will be within 30 days after official publication of exam results.


Blackboard will be used for tutorial groups. Students are requested to enroll on Blackboard for this course, but only after correct enrolment in uSis.

Reading list

Will be published on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis can be found here.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Tefera Negash Gebregziabher

When contacting the lecturer, please include your full name, student number and tutorial group number.


The deadline for submission of the final essay is 15 June 2018.