Transitional Justice


  • Badema Pitic USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research


This article provides a review of literature from a variety of disciplines on the relationship between musical practices and transitional justice in the context of violence and human rights violations. In the first part, I give an overview of selected scholarly works on transitional justice, with an emphasis on truth commissions and commemorations as catalysts for collective memory. I also touch upon the interplay between memory and reconciliation. In the second part of the paper, I focus on the literature that deals with musical practices in the context of transitional justice. Taking into account existing critiques of transitional justice mechanisms as primarily top-down approaches that often do not consider local practices of transitional justice, but also survivors’ needs and expectations, I contend that scholars of music can contribute significantly to putting more emphasis on and increasing the visibility of such local practices and survivors’ voices. By practicing ethnographic methods and sensitivity towards cultural specificities, ethnomusicologists are well equipped to contribute to a better understanding of the culture-specific ways in which people affected by violence engage with a traumatic past. I conclude with some further suggestions for addressing the relationship between music and transitional justice.

Author Biography

Badema Pitic, USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research

Badema Pitic is a VHA Research Officer at the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research. She earned her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from University of California, Los Angeles, with her research focusing on the intersections between music, memory, and nation-building in the aftermath of the war and genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Her work has been published in Memory Studies, Ethnomusicology Review, Narodna Umjetnost: Croatian Journal of Ethnology and Folklore Research, and others.