Valeria Vázquez Guevara's PhD Completion Seminar - Melbourne Law School
Thesis Title: Truth Commissions: The Authority of International Law and the State after Conflict
Abstract: The thesis examines how Truth Commissions draw on international law to authorise their accounts of past violence as ‘the truth’, and how this works to deauthorise local accounts. Over the last 30 years, Truth Commissions have proliferated and gained an international reputation as valuable post-conflict institutions. Yet, as both supporters and critics point out, there are many factors that condition the potential transformative power of Truth Commissions. This thesis examines one of those factors: their authority. The argument is that Truth Commissions have drawn on international law to authorise their accounts of violent conflict as the truth. In doing so, their accounts have tended to privilege a ‘global’ internationally-authorised truth over other locally-authorised truths. The argument is developed through an in-depth study of three of the most important Truth Commissions of the 20th century: Argentina (1983-1984), Chile (1990-1991), and El Salvador (1992-1993). The analysis focuses on how these Truth Commissions’ accounts are represented in cultural forms that continue to give their truths a public life: a literary prologue (for Argentina), a museum of memory (for Chile), and a tapestry (for El Salvador). The analysis is based on original archival research and in-country visits, as well as scholarship on jurisdictional thinking, the histories and theories of international law, and law and humanities.
Date: 1 June
Time: 12pm AEST
Valeria is a PhD candidate at Melbourne Law School, and an incoming Global Academic Fellow at the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law (2023-2024). Valeria’s research agenda is driven by an overarching concern with the role of international law and its institutions in conditioning the quality of state-society relations in the aftermath of violent conflict, especially in the Global South. Her research is informed by the theories and histories of international law, and scholarship on law and the humanities. These research interests build on Valeria’s personal and professional experiences in the non-profit sector in Spain, the Basque Country, El Salvador, and South Africa. Her research has been published in leading international law and socio-legal journals as well as in the Routledge Handbook of International Law and the Humanities. Valeria serves as co-managing editor of the Australian Feminist Law Journal, and as a member of the executive committee of the Law, Literature and the Humanities Association of Australasia.