Conference Annoucement: “Towards Transitional Justice: Recognition, Truth-telling, and Institutional Abuse in Ireland”

Save the Date: “Towards Transitional Justice: Recognition, Truth-telling, and Institutional Abuse in Ireland,” a conference at Boston College, 1-2 November 2018

This conference will consider the international best practice for responding to historical abuse by presenting case studies of the Irish State’s response to abuse in industrial and reformatory schools, Magdalene Laundries, Mother and Baby Homes, and related institutions. Human rights violations in these institutions included involuntary incarceration, forced and compulsory labor, physical and sexual abuse, loss of identity, family separation, child removal, child trafficking, and illegal adoption—overall, violations that disproportionately impacted vulnerable women and children.


Transitional Justice offers a more holistic approach to dealing with traumatic histories and gross human rights violations. In addition, Transitional Justice operates in a global human rights context, and therefore offers a useful paradigm for responding to such abuses–both in and beyond Ireland.


The four pillars of Transitional Justice are truth-telling, accountability, reparation, and the guarantee of non-recurrence, and these processes fundamentally involve the work of the humanities and the liberal arts. They rest, in part, on literary and cultural representation, access to the archive and the writing of history, the analysis of evidence, the ethical gathering of testimony, the production of life-writing, the making of films, documentaries and works of art, the performance of theatre, music and dance, the design and erection of monuments and memorials, the consideration of empathetic and informed approaches to wrong-doing in the past and the present, and the willingness to listen to competing perspectives.


The conference website includes information about the reasons for initiating this conversation between academics, survivors, and other stakeholders, as well as the program schedule and short biographies for the speakers. It also includes a resources page to facilitate engagement with the event, whether as a teacher, student, or member of the community.

The event is free and open to the public and all are welcome. While there is no registration fee for this conference, we ask anyone who is interested in participating to register on the website. Please consider attending parts or all of the conference and inviting your students as well.

Please feel free to contact me at with any questions. I hope to see you and your students at the event,


Jim Smith (on behalf of the organizing committee)

English Department


Conference Website