Pandemic Fiction Meets Political Science: A Simulation for Teaching Restorative Justice

Pandemic Fiction Meets Political Science: A Simulation for Teaching Restorative Justice

By Lisa Propst and Christopher C. Robinson, Clarkson University

We team teach an interdisciplinary political science and literature course titled “Violence and Reconciliation,” with case studies on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and on debates about whether to develop a TRC in Northern Ireland after the Troubles. The course culminates in a two-week simulation where students role-play victims, perpetrators, legal teams, government officials, and NGO members in the aftermath of a pandemic that has torn their society apart. Their mission is to negotiate a transitional justice plan, whether composed of criminal trials, a truth commission, or other truth-telling processes. We assessed the simulation through pre- and post-writing exercises as well as the insights revealed by students during negotiations. We believe the simulation is an effective tool to help students move from a scholarly engagement with the tools and processes of restorative justice to actually employing them in response to hatred and violence. In this paper we share the simulation for use or adaptation in other courses.