Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gregory C. Lisby

Second Advisor

Angelika Bammer

Third Advisor

Carrie Packwood Freeman

Fourth Advisor

Hongmei Li

Fifth Advisor

Fernando Reati


Testimony flows from a story that originates long before the opportunity to be a witness about human atrocities occurs. And, ironically, testimony – the voice that is suppressed during times of state sanctioned terror – continues to flow long after the perpetrators fade from power. It is this ethereal and enduring paradox that raises the questions of what testimonial forms are, how they communicate, and whether they positively impact social justice as evidenced by enhanced communicative freedoms.

The testimonial forms of this study are narratives about human rights atrocities which emerged from the 17-year military junta in Chile led by Augusto Pinochet. This project examines the development and uses of official and unofficial testimony surrounding times of transitional justice using a multi-modal analysis incorporating narrative and historical analysis, communication ethics, and critical theory which yields a meta-analysis of testimony and the context in which it functions. This research concludes that a life cycle of testimony exists that is organic and evolving. Furthermore, due to the unique circumstances of transitional justice periods, a theory of testimony ethics is called for to increase individual communicative freedoms that lead to enhanced social justice as well as to increase the success of truth commission communication processes.