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Sierra Leone’s devastating civil war barely caught the attention of Western media, but it raged on for over a decade, bringing misery to millions of people in West Africa from 1991 to 2002. The atrocities committed in this war and the accounts of its survivors were duly recorded by international organizations, but they run the risk of being consigned to dusty historical archives.

Derived from public testimonies at a UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Freetown, this remarkable poetry collection aims to breathe new life into the records of Sierra Leone’s civil war, delicately extracting heartbreaking human stories from the morass of legal jargon. By rendering selected trial transcripts in poetic form, Shanee Stepakoff finds a novel way to communicate not only the suffering of Sierra Leone’s people, but also their courage, dignity, and resilience. Her use of innovative literary techniques helps to ensure that the voices of survivors are not forgotten, but rather heard across the world.

This volume also includes an introduction that explores how the genre of “found poetry” can serve as a uniquely powerful means through which writers may bear witness to atrocity. This book’s unforgettable excavation and shaping of survivor testimonies opens new possibilities for speaking about the unspeakable.


transitional justice, human rights, human rights violations, human rights abuses, hybrid writing, found poetry, docu-poems, docu-poetry, Liberia, West Africa, contemporary African history, Testimony, Testimonies, Trauma studies, trauma in literature, war-crimes tribunal, war-crimes courts, war-crimes trials, tribunals, mass atrocity, torture survivors, Truth and Reconciliation, TRC, truth commission, war-crimes witnesses, war-crimes survivors, collective trauma, victims of war, transnational, transnational justice, global human rights, criminal history, criminal court, truth, restitution, trauma survivors, trauma, gender-based violence, war-related vesico-vaginal fistula, child soldiers, Sierra Leone, child combatants, ethnopolitical conflict, ethnopolitical violence, enthni violence, political violence, genocide, war amputees, bearing witness


Copyright © 2021 by Shanee Stepakoff All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Please contact Bucknell University Press, Hildreth-Mirza Hall, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837-2005. The only exception to this prohibition is “fair use” as defined by U.S. copyright law.


text, 184 pages





Testimony: Found Poems from the Special Court for Sierra Leone