In the literature on transitional justice, much attention has been focused on its repertoires of ‘reconciliation’, as opposed to more punitive versions of justice: what reconciliation entails, and its articulation with the effort to authorise a truthful version of a brutal and divisive past. Less interest has been accorded to the modes of expertise appropriate to the task. Who is appropriately qualified to pass judgement on a bitterly contested past, and on what grounds? Who is appropriately situated to effect reconciliation? What are the appropriate criteria and procedures whereby those tasked with effecting transitional justice are selected and appointed? In this paper, I reflect on the determination and production of expertise in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which looms large in the field of transitional justice as one of the most closely scrutinised and globally influential truth commissions. This reveals, I argue, an incipient identity politics at play in the TRC – tensely articulated with its normative touchstone of non-racialism.
Deborah Posel is a professor of Sociology at UCT, an appointment that coincides with her taking up the position of HUMA’s founding director as of January 2010. Prior to that, she spent many years at the University of Witwatersrand – as a professor of sociology, and director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), which she founded in 2000. She has been educated at the University of Witwatersrand and Nuffield College, Oxford, where she obtained her D.Phil in 1987, and was awarded the Gwilyn Gibbon Prize Research Fellowship, from 1985 – 1987. She has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, and a visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. She is a member of the Academy of Science for South Africa (Assaf) and a fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS). She has written and published widely on aspects of South African politics and society, during and beyond the apartheid years – including The Making of Apartheid, 1948 – 1961 (Clarendon Press, 1991 & 1997); Apartheid’s Genesis (Raven and Ohio University Press, 1994), with Phil Bonner and Peter Delius); Commissioning the Past: Understanding South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (WUP, 2002), with Graeme Simpson, Ethical Quandaries in Social Research (HSRC Press, 2014), with Fiona Ross, and Conspicuous Consumption in Africa (WUP, forthcoming), with Ilana van Wyk.