Hearing Voice: A Theoretical Framework for Truth Commission Testimony
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The article proposes a new way of thinking through truth commissions by discerning the manner in which they usher in new political configurations through voices and vocalizations. It contributes to our understanding of truth commissions by way of proposing a pragmatic ontology of bonds between the body, voice, and testimony by elucidating the central features that make them vocal assemblages, composed of five sub-institutional capacities: (1) they affect and are affected by bodies in a complex topological relation; (2) they are driven by an apology, which itself proffers a non-human body of transformation; (3) they potentiate reconciliation through spontaneous vocalizations; (4) they are ontogenetic openings that reassemble national pasts, presents, and futures; and (5) they are temporally experiential predecessors to political action. While victim testimony is taken as a historical crowning of the edifice for nations seeking to mend their past injustices, I contend that public reparation flourishes only if the state is open to the alternative orientations the voice proffers—that is, following recent observations of transitional justice, truth commissions have the potential to seek out alternative context-specific forms of justice in place of a universal law of reconciliation. By way of a brief discussion of Aboriginal artist K.C. Adams’ diptych series, Perception, the article proposes that voices pose a nuanced figuration of auto-affection as a communicative possibility towards the (re)presentation and (re)invention of the (survivor) self.
KeywordsAffect Transitional justice Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Voice
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