Brigitte Herremans

Postdoctoral researcher

Brigitte Herremans is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. She is part of the inter-institutional multidisciplinary iBOF project “Future-proofing human rights: Developing thicker forms of accountability”. She examines the relation between arts and accountability in the Syrian and Palestinian contexts.

In her doctoral research project at the Justice Visions research team, Brigitte investigated the potential of artistic practices to counter the erasure and invisibilisation of injustices and to ‘open up’ the justice imagination in the Syrian context. Her main research interests are Syria, the Palestinian-Israeli question, (transitional) justice efforts, accountability, and literature.

Brigitte studied Eastern Languages and Cultures at Ghent University and International Relations at l’Université Libre de Bruxelles.

Five major achievements (publications and otherwise)  

  1. After an extensive career in civil society activism, I transitioned back to academia and successfully published a PhD dissertation in December 2023 at the Law Faculty of Ghent University. Additionally, I have published several co-authored articles and book chapters. My research demonstrates how through creative use of transitional justice concepts and initiatives, Syrian and international justice actors made TJ relevant in a context marked by impunity and a growing Syria fatigue. Inspired by the work of Syrian CSOs, this research holds relevance for them as well.
  2. My research on the complementary role of the arts in traditional justice endeavors within the Syrian context is original and aligns with an expanding body of scholarly research concerning the influence of aesthetics and imagination in documenting injustices. Through an elaborate bricolage of methods and theoretical frameworks, I managed to foreground how Syrian artists manage to “presence” injustices, engage in truth seeking and allow for resistance.
  3. My expertise on Syria and Palestine is internationally recognized, as evidenced by requests across various platforms. These include invitations from media outlets for commentary, engagements within academic circles for guest lectures, requests to provide policy advice, participation in training initiatives, and collaboration with civil society organizations.
  4. In order to contribute to the knowledge about the Middle East and challenge essentialist perspectives about the failures of the Arab revolutions and ongoing resistance and mobilisation, I engage extensively in public speaking and writing. Notably, I have published an introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Ludo Abicht (Israël en Palestina: De kaarten op tafel, 2016) and an essay on the potential of literature to advance the struggle for human rights (De mens in opstand: Hoe verhalen de strijd voor mensenrechten voeden, 2019).
  5. Throughout the years, I have cultivated a robust international network spanning academia and civil society, facilitating connections between individuals and institutions. I have advocated the significance of embracing diverse modes of knowledge production, relying on different epistemic communities, thus foregrounding the ingenuity of human rights defenders and artists

Relevant publications

Herremans B., (2023). Countering Erasure and Invisibilisation: The Potential of Literature to Open Up the Justice Imagination in the Syrian Context. PhD dissertation.

Herremans, B., & Bellintani, V. (2023). Overcoming the justice impasse in Syria. In T.

Destrooper, L. E. Gissel, & K. B. Carlson (Eds.), Transitional justice in aparadigmatic contexts:

accountability, recognition and disruption

Herremans, B., & Destrooper, T. (2023). Moving beyond formal truth practices and forensic

truth in the Syrian conflict : how informal truth practices contribute to thicker understandings of

truth, Journal of Social and Legal Studies

Herremans, B., & Destrooper, T. (2021). Stirring the justice imagination : countering the

invisibilization and erasure of Syrian victims’ justice narratives, International Journal of

Transitional Justice

Destrooper, T., & Herremans, B. (2020). Hoop omarmen en verbeelden. Karakter. Leuven, 70, 3–10.

Conference presentations

  • ‘Presencing the Disappeared: Truth-seeking in the Syrian Context’, HRRN conference, 7 December 2023, Ghent.
  • ‘Reader responses to Death is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa and Planet of Clay by Samar Yazbek’, HRRN conference, 7 December 2023, Ghent.
  • ‘Truth-seeking in Syrian Literary Writing’, ECPR conference, 6 September 2023, Prague.
  •  ‘Countering Erasure in Syrian Literary Writing’, conference Memory Studies Association, 6 July 2023, Newcastle.
  • ‘Informal Truth-seeking in the Syrian Context’, Socio-Legal Studies Association conference, 4 April 2023, online.
  • ‘Reader responses to Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa and Planet of Clay by Samar Yazbek’, conference ACLA, 16-19 March 2023, Chicago.
  • ‘Countering Erasure in Syria: A Close Reading of Two Syrian Novels’, Shakk conference 23-25 January 2023, Beirut.
  • ‘Informal Truth Practices in Syrian Context’, European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) general conference, 22 August 2022, Innsbruck.
  •  ‘How Informal Truth Practices Can Contribute to a Thicker Understanding of Truth in the Syrian Context’, Mnemonics summer school – Mnemopolitics: Contested Memories and (Ab)uses of the Past, 16-19 August 2022, Stockholm-online.
  • ‘Literature and truth-telling: Countering Erasure in Syrian Context’, American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) conference, 18 June 2022, online.
  • ‘Overcoming the Justice Impasse in Syria, International Political Science Association conference, 14 July 2021, Lisbon-online.
Brigitte Herremans