The Immune System: Amnesty, Indemnity, and Sovereignty in South Africa


ACLS Fellowship Program


Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought

Named Award

ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellow named award


The purpose of “The Immune System” is to change the way South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is studied in the interdisciplinary subfield of legal studies known as “transitional justice.” This is the first study of the TRC to fully situate its use of amnesty in the context of the long series of indemnity acts and amnesties that preceded it in South African legal history. This standpoint offers a new understanding of the TRC’s moral, legal, and political significance: The genius of the TRC is not that it substituted restorative justice for legal justice, but that it inventively modified a form of political sovereignty in South Africa that originated under colonial conditions.