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Home arrow Law arrow United States law and policy on transitional justice : principles, politics, and pragmatics


IV. Methodology

This book’s central research aim is to determine how and why the USG formulated particular transitional justice policies in the immediate aftermaths of WWII and the Cold War. In doing so, I identify the most significant political factors, pragmatic features, and normative beliefs shaping U.S. foreign policy in this issue area. Using these findings, this book offers prudentialism as an alternative to legalism, the dominant theoretical framework on this topic. The final part of this Introduction describes the key methodologies employed in the analysis: case study, as opposed to other research paradigms; the selection system for the case studies; and the sources upon which the analysis draws.76 By way of conclusion, I outline the core elements of the argument to follow.


This book employs the “case study” method,77 which political scientists Alexander George and Andrew Bennett define as “the detailed examination of an aspect of a historical episode to develop or test historical explanations that may be gener- alizable to other events.”78 Case study research is often conducted on two dimensions: the number of cases investigated and the amount of information collected per case. Rather than collect a small amount of data on a large number of cases, as often occurs with survey research, this book examines a large amount of data on a small number of cases. And unlike the process of generating cases to be studied, as accomplished through experimental research, this book uses preexisting data. As is common in case study research, this book employs a qualitative, rather than quantitative, analysis of and a narrative approach to the data concerning the cases investigated.

There are several purposes behind this book’s “small-N” approach. First, this book uses “process tracing”—what George and political scientist Timothy McKeown define as “the decision process by which various initial conditions are translated into outcomes”79— to understand the cases studied for their own sake: to document and comprehend the USG role in these transitional justice situations, with their unique features and in their particular circumstances. Each of the six case studies serves as an instance of a type of USG approach to transitional justice. Second, I examine the decision points preceding each transitional justice option selected to determine whether the reasoning behind each decision comports more with legalism or prudentialism. Third, although not all case study research must do so, this book aims to draw theoretical inferences about which framework—l egalism or prudentialism—better explains USG policy on transitional justice generally.80 As a result, this book’s objectives are to employ within-case examination as well as cross-case comparisons.

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