This two-day symposium brings together exemplary scholars, practitioners, policymakers, activists, policymakers and community members to consider the complexities of living with conflict across a range of societies.
Through plenary panels, conversations and performance, we will collectively explore the endurance of conflict and the imperatives of justice in places such as Australia, South Africa, Cambodia, East Timor, Northern Ireland, United States, Africa, and Greece. And we will consider the lessons learned by thinkers and activists in these jurisdictions who have struggled with questions of how to think about conflict and justice in societies with histories of violence.
After periods of violence, quests for justice are often framed in terms of achieving peace. Policy and law, for example, are often targeted towards 'resolving', neutralising or even criminalising expressions of conflict. Peace, however, can come at a cost and justice may mean living with conflicts which cannot be overcome. Conflicts over resources, recognition, history, forms of democracy or modes of justice are often part of the painful experiences of modern nation states.
How, then, can policy, law, and even education - through a rubric of justice - come to terms with, and better reflect, the necessary existence of conflict? Must such practices also seek a broader level of structural change and recognition through justice? Or, given recent political upheavals, must we now reinvent a notion and a means of ensuring of justice?
Where dominant social, legal and political initiatives implemented in the wake of violence have favoured struggles for equality, contemporary conflicts may now require a recognition of difference. What then can justice - as a goal, process and ideal - offer contemporary communities and individuals who have endured histories and experiences of violence? What can a politics which can barely stretch itself to plurality, manage as an accommodation of the unassimilable? What forms of belonging can be lawfully negotiated?
Hosted by the Global Network on Justice. Conflict. Responsibility (JCR Network) in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne
Symposium concept note
What is the JCR Network?
The Global Network on Justice. Conflict. Responsibility is a new research centre in the School of Social and Political Sciences at The University of Melbourne. Drawing on current expertise at the University and inviting connections between scholars, practitioners, activists and community organisations, the JCR Network is the first Australian-based transitional justice network. It will act as a research and collaboration hub linking the global and the local; bringing the experiences of conflict, violence and politics in Australia to bear on contemporary transitional and international justice practice and scholarship. The JCR Network will therefore bring to Australian public life unique and critical perspectives on practices and possibilities of justice in conflictual and post-conflict societies.
- Draw together the insights and experiences of international and national government and non-government agencies, community groups and scholars on 'living with conflict' and 'practicing justice'
- Establish and support an effective model for long-term engagement between academic and non-academic sectors
- Bring Australian experiences and understandings of conflict and justice (such as the multiplicity of Indigenous experiences as well as the experiences of those fleeing conflict) into conversation with international events, practices and understandings
- Contribute unique and critical perspectives to Australian public life and internationally
The Network will be officially launched at the Justice through Conflict; Conflict through Justice symposium.
What is the focus of the Justice through Conflict; Conflict through Justice symposium?
It is a two-day conversation with invited international and national scholars, practitioners, policymakers, activists, and community members on the concepts of 'living with conflict', 'practicing justice' and responsibility.
Located in Australia on the land of the Kulin nation of the Wurundjeri people, the symposium is itself a practice of reckoning with justice, conflict and responsibility given this nation's clear (and continuing) history of violence. Through this symposium and the practices of the Network more broadly, the symposium seeks to foster conversational spaces and on-going relationships with those who think about and engage with justice projects in this and other societies in conflict and/or coming out of conflict. Its goal is to establish productive and collaborative ways forward.
The symposium is structured around 4 key ideas:
Living with conflict
Despite social and legal initiatives directed towards nullifying, placating or eradicating conflict, conflict nevertheless persists, and is perhaps embedded in the very fabric of politics. This symposium engages with conflict, both historically and presently located conflict, as enduring. Indeed, conflict can be seen as a structural feature of settler-colonial states, such as Australia, as well as other 'post-colonial' and 'post-conflict' countries. One may continue to live with conflict even having fled a conflict zone. Through presentations and conversations, we will reconsider conflict as:
- a recognition of differing ideas, identities, demands and laws
- competing demands for the space and resources that legitimise these differing identities
- an expression of this difference; and
- sometimes courting the violence which accompanies these demands
What can and does justice mean in the face of enduring conflict, structural injustice and historical violence? What forms might justice take - is it a process, an end goal, a state of being, an institutional framework? What is its character - legal, social, structural, symbolic? Can it be a national question or does it require international collaboration and input? How does it differ within community? Building on collaborative research that seeks to spark new ways of engaging with historical injustices in settler-colonial societies such as Australia, we are particularly interested in the possibilities of a structural justice, practices of lawfulness, or a justice which might not yet be named. These are methods and approaches to justice that both recognise and respond to the structural injustices that are ingrained in the dominant institutional and narratives that form some societies.
Responsibility might be understood as a practice of law, justice, politics and emotional orientation. It resides in the context of individual, communal and structural relations and is a matter of both representation and practical action. The idea of responsibility brings questions of ethical obligation and lawfulness to the fore. The Network aims to provide a place to grapple with, conceptualise and critique practical and theoretical approaches to responsibility to and for conflict and justice (and their potential violence). Responsibility transcends generations and events and informs our engagement with ideas, with each other and with the practice of standing and conversing on Indigenous land.
Connecting the local and the global, Australia and the world
The international is often seen as existing outside Australia, while debates about transitional and international criminal justice overwhelmingly focus on non-Western contexts. Drawing on our collective research and justice practices, we are interested in connecting Australian experiences and histories of conflict and justice with such experiences and histories elsewhere. What are the implications of Australian experiences and histories to broader approaches to structural and historical injustice; what global justice frameworks might be relevant in the Australian context? What does it mean to live with conflict and seek justice when one has left a war or other ongoing conflict? And what can the knowledges of and through ongoing conflicts in Australia offer other environments of conflict or indeed peace?
In engaging with these questions, we seek to position the global or international as locally situated and defined. We also seek to open out onto a conversation about the dynamics of engagement between the 'local' and the 'global', by interrogating what conflicts and injustices are visible on the global stage and how their significance is conceptualised.
Symposium structure and participation
The format of the symposium is structured around hearing from leading academic and non-academic experts and enabling cross-sectoral conversations between scholars, practitioners, policymakers, activists and community members. It will incorporate:
- Keynote presentations
- Roundtable conversations
- Audience and small group discussions
- Artistic performance focusing on conflict, justice and responsibility
- A public lecture
The symposium size is anticipated to be approximately 150 participants, with many opportunities for dialogue, debate and collaboration amongst all participants.
- To bring together international and national government and non-government agencies,community groups and scholars to collectively discuss the ideas of 'living with conflict' and 'practicing justice' and learn from each other
- To promote and enable the development of long-term collaborations between these keystakeholders, which may result in shared projects, grants, papers and events
- To establish and launch the JCR Network