Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


Dr. Joanna R. Quinn


As a relatively young field of academic inquiry, the transitional justice scholarship presents some important difficulties, not least of which is its lack of critical evaluation of the approaches to justice it adopts and promotes. This research argues that the framework used in the transitional justice scholarship is ill-suited to account for, and to think about, the philosophy of justice embodied in customary mechanisms of justice. It explains that the type of “justice” embodied in customary mechanisms of justice is difficult to appreciate by using the retributive, reparative, and the restorative approaches. These Western, individualistic and legally based approaches are often antithetical to the conception of “justice” embodied in customary mechanisms of justice. This study is substantiated with an examination of the Mãori tradition and justice practices. It conceptualizes the type of justice that is embodied in traditional mechanisms of justice as a form of “relational justice,” which is described as an approach to doing justice that prioritizes relationships. This study argues that this is based on the primacy of communal well-being. It also discusses the implications research findings have for the field of transitional justice. That is, it addresses the problematic propensity of the scholarship to see the rule of law as the “end all, be all,” and to use it as a benchmark against which all other justice practices are to be measured. This research also takes the opportunity to push the boundaries of the transitional justice literature further by speaking to the need to revise the common understanding of what constitutes a transitional society.