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Memorialization generally refers to the process of preserving memories of people or events. It can be a form of address or petition, or a ceremony of remembrance or commemoration.[1][2]

Memorialisation and transitional justice[edit]

In the context of transitional justice, memorialisation honours the victims of human rights abuses. Memorials can help governments reconcile tensions with victims by demonstrating respect and acknowledging the past. They can also help to establish a record of history, and to prevent the recurrence of abuse.[3]

Memorials can also be serious social and political forces in democracy-building efforts.[4]

Memorials are also a form of reparations, or compensation efforts that seek to address past human rights violations.[5] They aim to provide compensation for losses endured by victims of abuse, and remedy prior wrongdoing. They also publicly recognize that victims are entitled to redress and respect. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation recognizes “commemorations and tributes to the victims” as a form of reparation.[6]

There are numerous types of memorials used as transitional justice initiatives. These include architectural memorials, museums, and other commemorative events. For instance, in northern Uganda, monuments, annual prayer ceremonies, and a mass grave were created in response to the war conducted by and against the Lord’s Resistance Army there.[7]

Another example is the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile, which was created to document abuses by the former military dictatorship there.[8]

Challenges of memorialization[edit]

Memorialization can arouse controversy and present certain risks. In unstable political situations, memorials may increase desire for revenge and catalyze further violence. They are highly politicized processes that represent the will of those in power. They are thus difficult to shape, and international relief workers, peacekeepers, and NGOs risk being drawn into disputes about the creation or maintenance of memorial sites. Yet they also have the potential to redress historical grievances and enable societies to progress.[9]

Guy Beiner has introduced a concept of decommemorating in reference to hostility towards acts of commemoration that can result in violent assaults and in iconoclastic defacement or destruction of monuments. Beiner's studies suggest that rather than stamping out memorialization, decommemorating can paradoxically, function as a form of ambiguous remembrance, sustaining interest in controversial memorials. Destruction of monuments can also trigger renewed acts of memorialization (which Beiner labelled "re-commemorating").[10]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Tobie S. Meyer-Fong. What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013). ISBN 9780804754255. A study of the Taiping rebellion in mid 19th century China: its victims, their experience of the war, and the memorialization of the war.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed Memorialization processes
  • Louis Bickford, “Memoryworks/memory works”, in Transitional Justice, Culture and Society: Beyond Outreach, Clara Ramírez-Barat, ed. (New York, Social Science Research Council, 2014):


  1. ^ "Memorialization". Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Online ed.). 21 July 2023.
  2. ^ "Memorialisation". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. ^ "Truth and Memory". International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). 25 February 2011.
  4. ^ Brett, Sebastian; Bickford, Louis; Ševčenko, Liz; Rios, Marcela (2007). Memorialization and Democracy: State Policy and Civic Action (PDF) (Report). International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).
  5. ^ Buckley-Zistel, S. / Schäfer, S. (eds.) (2014). Memorials in Times of Transition. Antwerp: Intersentia. ISBN 9781780682112. {{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ General Assembly of the United Nations (21 March 2006). Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 60/147 of 16 December 2005 (Report). Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  7. ^ Hopwood, Julian (February 2011). We Can't Be Sure Who Killed Us: Memory and Memorialization in Post-conflict Northern Uganda (PDF) (Report). International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).
  8. ^ "Sobre el Museo". Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (in Spanish). 20 April 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  9. ^ Barsalou, Judy; Baxter, Victoria (1 January 2007). The Urge to Remember: The Role of Memorials in Social Reconstruction and Transitional Justice (PDF). United States Institute of Peace (Report). Stabilization and Reconstruction.
  10. ^ Guy Beiner, Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 356-443.

External links[edit]