Rectified Sites of Violence from Westgate to Lampedusa: Exploring the Link between Public Amnesia and Conflict in Ongoing Confrontations

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This article investigates whether and how public amnesia of violent incidents such as mass drownings or mass killings impacts ongoing conflict dynamics. Specifically, the article compares and contrasts two forms of public amnesia in the relatively little-studied space of the rectified site- A site of violence returned to prior use without monumentation or commemoration. Looking at the unmarked sites of violence in East Africa's confrontation with Al-Shabaab, such as the Westgate Mall, and the Mediterranean crossings within the system of migration deterrence, the article asks: How do rectification practices and associated public production of silence feed into conflict dynamics and conflict transformation? The article shows that while public amnesia tends to entrench the confrontation, recognition through commemoration needs to be calibrated carefully in order to avoid further conflict escalation. Epistemic redress must precede physical and symbolic memory work in rectified sites of violence. By tackling the puzzle of (non)commemoration and active forgetting of violence in contexts of ongoing confrontation, the article decentres dominant transitional justice concerns over memory from the present to the absent, and from the space of the 'post' to the lingering 'in-between' of conflict that defines many contemporary violent confrontations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-523
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Transitional Justice
Issue number3
Early online date20 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Epistemic redress
  • Memory at the interstice
  • Memory-conflict nexus
  • Politics of amnesia
  • Transit justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

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