Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





John Torpey

Subject Categories

Peace and Conflict Studies | Political Science | Sociology


Africa, conflict, peace, reparations, social memory, transitional justice


The past decade has seen a global increase in scholarly and practitioner interests in memorialization and social memory studies. While memorialization initially gained social and political significance after the Holocaust, as it served as a symbol of recognition of the millions of victims, it gained increased recognition with the growth of the transitional justice field. Initially subsumed under the banner of symbolic reparations, memorialization has over the past few years become a transitional justice mechanism in its own right. Increasingly, victims turn toward memorialization as a mechanism for recognition, justice and healing, and more truth commissions are recommending memorialization as a tool for post-conflict rebuilding. Despite this growth in the field, there is limited understanding of the actual impact that memorialization has in social rebuilding.

Using a case study approach, this dissertation employs a qualitative research methodology, asking the question: under what conditions do the mechanisms associated with transitional justice, most specifically memorialization, contribute to peace and social rebuilding? The study draws on research conducted mainly in Liberia and South Africa. Twenty-two expert interviews and six focus group interviews with a total of 90 participants inform this research project. This dissertation concludes that memorialization's role in peace and social rebuilding is varied. However, there are certain conditions--such as an integrated approach to the implementation of memorialization and the delivery of other forms of reparations, a survivor-centered approach to memorialization and the use of memorialization as a catalyst for critical education--that may increase memorialization's potential to contribute to post-conflict reconstruction.