Gendered Narratives: Stories and Silences in Transitional Justice


Porter, Elisabeth. 2015. “Gendered Narratives: Stories and Silences in Transitional Justice.” Human Rights Review 17 (1): 35–50. doi:10.1007/s12142-015-0389-8.

Author: Elisabeth Porter


Stories told about violence, trauma, and loss inform knowledge of post-conflict societies. Stories have a context which is part of the story-teller's life narrative. Reasons for silences are varied. This article affirms the importance of telling and listening to stories and notes the significance of silences within transitional justice's narratives. It does this in three ways. First, it outlines a critical narrative theory of transitional justice which confirms the importance of narrative agency in telling or withholding stories. Relatedly, it affirms the importance of story-telling as a way to explain differentiated gender requirements within transitional justice processes. Second, it examines gendered differences in the ways that women are silenced by shame, choose silence to retain self-respect, use silence as a strategy of survival, or an agential act. Third, it argues that compassionate listening requires gender-sensitive responses that recognize the narrator's sense of self and needs.

Keywords: compassionate listening, gendered narratives, narrative agency, silences, stories in transitional justice

Topics: Gender, Health, Mental Health, Justice, Transitional Justice, Violence

Year: 2015

© 2024 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at