Izabela Steflja, Ph.D.


Tulane University

Country: United States (Louisiana)

Research Interests

African Politics

Conflict Processes & War


Human Rights

International Law & Organization

Post-Communist Politics

Political Violence

Countries of Interest




Congo, Democratic Republic of the (Zaire)


My Research:

I study transitional justice, civil war, and ethnicity, nationalism, and gender in conflict and post-conflict settings. I have conducted extensive fieldwork in the African Great Lakes region and the Balkans. My current book manuscript examines local perceptions of international criminal tribunals. In addition, I am working on a project that investigates female perpetrators of crimes against humanity.


Journal Articles:

(2018) “Internationalised Justice and Democratisation: How International Tribunals Can Empower Non-Reformists.”, Third World Quarterly

This article examines the relationship between international criminal justice and democratisation processes in post-conflict settings, illustrating that international tribunals did not contribute to democratisation in the cases of Serbia, Kosovo and Rwanda. The argument that tribunals have willingly or inadvertently empowered local non-reformist factions is rooted in the agency of local elites. The findings suggest prioritisation of international over localised knowledge, political over victim interests and stability over judicial independence. This article makes a contribution to the emerging, critical literature on the dynamics between institutions of international criminal law and their socio-political environments, drawing attention to volatile effects of internationalised justice.

(2018) The production of the war criminal cult: Radovan Karadžić and Vojislav Šešelj at The Hague, Nationalities Papers

This article examines how defendants on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) appropriate the tribunal as a platform for national myth and group making. Specifically, the article analyzes Radovan Karadžić and Vojislav Šešelj’s “performances” at The Hague in order to highlight the particular ways in which the defendants craft and mobilize the nationalist narrative. The article introduces the phenomenon of “the war criminal cult” and traces three stages of its production, including the defendants’ collectivization of guilt, epitomization of The Hague as the ultimate enemy of the nation, and construction of “Serbs” as the biggest victims of international justice and of themselves as martyrs befallen with the task of defending the dignity of the nation. The “war criminal cult” is thus “made” in conversation with the “imperial West” in a collective narrative that contests the legitimacy and the intention of The Hague while disguising individual responsibility.

(2015) “To History or to Hollywood? Monuments to Foreign Celebrities in Twenty-First Century Balkans.”, Europe Asia Studies

The article identifies an emerging trend in the reconstruction of identities in the Balkans which involves thememorialisation of foreign celebrities, including Rocky Balboa, Tarzan, Bruce Lee, Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur and Samantha Fox. The article aims to understand the meaning and the purpose of foreign celebrity monuments to the local communities. The findings suggest that the monuments represent radical political statements by emerging civil societies in a process of transition from Yugoslav socialism, 1990s nationalism, and foreign-led liberalisation and democratisation in post-conflict times. The monuments are constitutive in themselves as democratic expressions and examples of citizens performing political acts.

(2013) “Making Civilian Casualties Count: Approaches to Documenting the Human Cost of War", Human Rights Review

Our understanding of civilian casualties is not based solely on what is reported but also who reports these human rights abuses. Competing interests at the data collection stage have impeded the development of a more thorough understanding of civilian victimization during conflict. We find that current definitions of “casualty” neglect nonphysical forms of victimization and that group-based definitions of “civilian” can obscure the role of different individuals in conflict. We contend that the dominant definition of “civilian casualty” should be expanded to include the full array of harm inflicted on individuals, including psychological harm and what we refer to as multiple casualties of conflict. Expanding our definition of civilian casualties to include different degrees and kinds of wartime victimization would improve both documentation and analysis. We propose several areas for improvement in terms of the documentation of civilian casualties as well as potential solutions to the problems we identify.