Document Type


Publication Date


Embargo Period



Works of human rights literature help to ground the formal rights system in an informal rights ethos. Writers have developed four major modes of human rights literature: protest, testimony, lament, and laughter. Through interpretations of poetry in Carolyn Forché’s anthology, Against Forgetting, and novels from Rwanda, the United States, and Bosnia, I focus on the mode of lament, the literature of mourning. Lament is a social and ritualized form, the purposes of which are congruent with the aims of transitional justice institutions. Both laments and truth commissions employ grieving narratives to help survivors of human rights trauma bequeath to the ghosts of the past the justice of a monument while renewing the survivors’ capacity for rebuilding civil society in the future. Human rights scholars need a broader, extra-juridical meaning for “transitional justice” if we hope to capture its power.


This is an author accepted manuscript version of an article that was published as:

Galchinsky, Michael. "Lament as Transitional Justice." Human Rights Review 15.3 (2014): 259-81. The final publication is available at Springer via