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In 1989, after few decades of Soviet disinformation, a fourth investigation by the state commission finally recognized Bykivnia, located on the outskirt of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, as being a burial place for victims of the Soviet regime. Later in 1994, the Historical and Cultural Reserve “Bykivnians’ky Graves” was launched at the site, marking the initial point of the state remembrance of victims of Soviet political repressions and consequently indicating the importance of the victimhood narrative when portraying the Soviet past. This article examines the historical recognition of Bykivnia and the development of a martyrological landscape on the site in context with the establishment of state legislative actions and commemorative policies regarding victims of Soviet political repressions. The case study of Bykivnia should provide a basic understanding of domestic and international contradictions when creating a victimhood narrative and will question approaches taken for adapting this narrative in building a national identity.
As the silence of male CRSV victims continues to be debated, some argue that gender norms and a lack of agency contribute to the silence of victims, even as others assert that victims exercise agency by speaking selectively about their experiences. In northern Nigeria, the concept of kunya—a model for appropriate behaviour rooted in the importance of secrecy and discretion—plays a role in the silencing of victims. We examine how kunya contributes to the invisibility of victims and influences their silence, as well as how victims use silence to gain social tolerability and/or protect themselves from re-victimization. We argue that an attentiveness to such community-specific cultural precepts and norms can further our understanding of the silence (and silencing) of victims and survivors.
Right-wing populists often mobilize popular support by employing a people-versus-elite dichotomy in which they cast ‘the people’ as the underdog, or by ‘performing’ crisis to discredit the elite. Such ‘underdogism’, and the reliance on crisis more broadly, remains an effective strategy for as long as populists are in opposition. But what happens when populists gain power? One would expect that they would not be able to exploit their position as effectively and their appeal would weaken drastically. In certain cases, however, they still manage to sustain the underdog illusion. This article argues that memory politics are an important locus for populists to maintain their underdog rhetoric, and within that field the performance of victimhood is key. Building on theories about the performance of crisis and recent trends in research on memory politics in Central Europe, we propose a framework for understanding how governing right-wing populists justify vindictive policies and thus try to cement their power.
The book’s final chapter is a nuanced study of how political screening engaged with and altered German memory, identity, and community, as well as the national process of coming to terms with the Nazi past. This research challenges the traditional single-frame interpretation of denazification by revealing how many respondents, especially those complicit with Nazism, actively used political screening for their own benefit. It views the questionnaire as a rich and revealing record of autobiography. The emotional annotations written into Fragebögen are a window into the mind of the common German citizen and a means to understand individual mental processing of the Nazi era. This chapter argues that men and women undergoing political investigation were not passive subjects of a mandatory denazification program, but active and engaged participants who used the questionnaire, consciously and subconsciously, for their own benefit. The Fragebogen was therefore not simply a bureaucratic screening instrument of the occupying armies, but also an unintended emancipatory device that gave voice to Germans, inviting them to participate in the determination of their own fate.
Continuing with Lina’s story, this chapter looks into the various ways in which the FARC victimhood frame is contested. Starting with the government, and drawing on interviews with soldiers, psychologists, police officers, and other disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration experts, this chapter outlines the government’s main contestation of the guerrilla victimhood frame: specifically, that they are perpetrators against their own comrades, especially the female ones. But the paramilitaries – illustrated by stories from various former AUC members – also contest the guerrilla victimhood frame with frames of their own, saying that they are the true self-defense forces and that they never would have had to take up guns if not for the guerrillas. This chapter shows the complexity and blurred lines between perpetrators and victims and analyzes the problematic outcomes of such contentious and highly gendered framing contests when ex-combatants demobilize and try to become civilians alongside each other.
This chapter lays out the background of the current conflict in Colombia, explaining why, despite the peace agreement in 2016, Colombia is far from a “post-conflict” country. This chapter discusses the disputes around the peace agreement, the history of previous peace agreements and attempted disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs in Colombia, and the ongoing problems with ex-combatant unemployment, reintegration, and recidivism into violence and illegal activities. The chapter also discusses how hierarchies of victimhood have become a flashpoint in the Colombian peace process, especially regarding the government’s resistance to including victims of state violence in reparations process.
What is the basis of status in world order? Status is assumed to come from strength, even if strength is reconfigured to be social and normative, not just material. Status, however, can also come from perceived weakness – it is conferred to those recognised as ‘victims’. We make four theoretical contributions to the scholarship on status in world affairs. First, we examine how the category of victim is produced. Two, we expand the possible sources of status in world affairs by adding the category of victim. Three, focus on victimhood status further demonstrates that status is independent of material power. Lastly, victimhood as status exhibits the paradox that power depends on perceived powerlessness. We illustrate these arguments with three features of victim status in modern international politics: the changing desirability of victim status in Israel, the gendered construction of ideal victim in the Congo, and the hierarchy of victimhood in Bosnia.
This article seeks to address a thematic thread that remains relatively unexplored in historical disaster research—victimhood—through an analysis of publications by disaster relief funds and their supporters in the aftermath of the 1934 earthquake in Bihar in northern India. By examining the representations of victimhood, I aim to explore the historical significance of perceptions and constructions of victimhood in the late colonial period. Based on photographs, illustrations, and descriptions of suffering in images and texts, the article suggests that constructions of victimhood effectively relied on imagery that contained, on the one hand, an absence of bodies and, on the other, a feminized anthropomorphization of suffering. The narratives underlying such depictions of earthquake victims are based on a constitution of victimhood that relied on contemporary historical and culturally founded imageries. The analysis of images and texts focuses on how representations of disaster victims were effective in communicating suffering to audiences. I tentatively argue that historically and culturally founded tropes of what constituted a victim formed along two narratives of victimhood that appealed to a colonial and a nationalist readership respectively. These conceptualizations of victimhood formed the basis for collecting aid for relief and reconstruction, rather than the loss of life, dispossession, social marginalization, and displacement suffered by victims of the earthquake.
Scholars of state classification practices have long interrogated how official legal categories are constructed. This paper analyzes the construction of “victimhood” in Colombia as a feat that required negotiation among international human rights organizations, local civil society actors, and politicians across the partisan spectrum. The Victims’ Law of 2011, which sought to provide widespread reparations to victims of the civil conflict, originated from the concerns of the human rights community, yet the deliberation process leading up to the law’s passage reveals the extent to which elite historical narratives of the conflict unduly narrowed the universe of eligible victims. Using archival evidence from congressional debates from 2007 to 2011, this paper argues that the broad conception of victimhood originally inherited from United Nations guidelines came to be constrained by disproportionate influence from politicians’ personal understandings of conflict history, shaped by anecdote and the selective use of historical evidence. These rationales interacted with budgetary constraints to ultimately restrict the victim category according to negotiated temporal boundaries of the conflict.
Drawing a line between victims and non-victims in the context of gross violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law is not an easy task. On the one hand, mass atrocities lead to widespread victimisation of individuals, groups and communities who suffer from various types of harm and damage incurred in the process of their commission. On the other hand, clearly not every person affected by an ongoing conflict and mass criminality should be considered an injured party. This article addresses such conceptual dilemmas by casting light on the function of family relations as grounds of indirect victimhood. To this end, it identifies two theoretical models of victimhood and showcases how they have been put into practice by international and hybrid courts and tribunals in their respective reparative and punitive regimes.
Enns reflects on the meaning of guilt and responsibility in the context of Indigenous struggles in Canada. While rarely uncomplicated, the question of who is to blame poses a unique challenge in the case of historical atrocities with enduring legacies. When those guilty of the original violations are long dead, yet leave behind institutions that perpetuate the conditions for oppression and privilege, it is tempting to assign collective guilt. With the help of Hannah Arendt and Karl Jaspers, who argued in the aftermath of World War II for a robust understanding of collective responsibility, distinct from individual guilt, Enns navigates the effects of oversimplifying these concepts. Central to her discussion is the dramatic shift in contemporary scholarly and public discourses on victimhood and identity – on victimhood as identity – since Arendt famously wrote: “Where all are guilty, no one is.” With reference to the parallel ways in which victimhood is assumed as a permanent state and granted moral authority in North American Indigenous and anti-Black racism struggles, Enns notes the limits of an identity-based politics, and argues for a richer understanding of collective responsibility – one that will create a future world with a better inheritance.
Akenroye and Clarke discuss the difficulties of fitting the moral ambiguities of violent conflict into the neat victim/perpetrator binaries of international criminal law. At center stage in this chapter is a discussion of the trial of Dominic Ongwen in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The trial centered on the culpability of a man whose horrific acts of violence in the Ugandan civil war of the early 2000s led the ICC to issue 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity against him. The ambiguities of the case and the reference point of the trial’s arguments center on Ongwen’s recruitment as a child soldier under the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army headman, Joseph Kony. At what point does a child’s transition into adulthood change the conditions of their responsibility for crime? At what point is a child soldier expected to repudiate his or her superiors and escape the scene of atrocity? And if repudiation and escape are called for in this and other cases of this kind, how might this example extend to other forms of aberrant socialization, the “brainwashing,” for example, that can lead an entire nation to accept and act on ideas of the inhumanity and need to eliminate a national minority?
Research has well established that narrative was used prior to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as a tool to construct enemies and facilitate genocidal violence. Political leaders, radio narrators, and newspaper editors especially influenced these narratives through the use of propaganda and dehumanizing language. In light of new research, this chapter asks a different question: What is the role of narratives in the post-genocide construction of victim identity? Through in-depth interviews conducted with 100 Rwandan genocide survivors, former perpetrators, ordinary citizens, and key informants, this chapter finds that people perform their experiences and recall their identities differently in national, local, and private commemorative spaces. Rwandans negotiate between official memorialization and alternative forms of remembering in order to make meaning of their experiences during the genocide. Narrative analysis shows the complicated interplay between the “big story” expressed by the state, and other stories told in different spaces and places. As these stories coincide, coexist, compete, and change over time, they reshape victim identity as complex, dynamic, and dependent on whether victimhood is defined by the law, the state, or individual self-perceptions. The chapter presents broader implications of the multiple relationships between narratives and victim identities for other post-atrocity settings.
Chapter 2, “The Killing Years,” explains the two-wave Nazi police genocide against the intelligentsia in 1939–1940, its fallout, and how these initial killing campaigns shaped the Nazi German occupation administration for Poland. German anti-intelligentsia campaigning was bloody but ultimately drove the resistance it attempted to thwart. The first campaign, codenamed Operation Tannenberg, was coordinated with the military campaign in 1939 but delayed in Warsaw because of the siege. Tannenberg went awry and was complicated by the circumstances of the invasion and incoming occupation. After Nazi Germany established a civilian occupation under general governor Hans Frank, Frank revived anti-intelligentsia killing with his new campaign, the Extraordinary Pacification Action (AB-Aktion). This campaign’s violence shocked Poles and provoked the resistance it was intended to achieve. This chapter argues that the two Nazi genocidal campaigns failed but shaped the nature of Nazi occupation administration, and encouraged the first violent Polish resistance in response.
Chapter 4, “The Warsaw Ghetto: A People Set Apart,” considers how Polish elites grappled with Jewish victimhood in their midst and differentiates between Nazi targeting of Polish elites and the better known targeting and murder of Polish Jews. It traces initial Nazi persecution of Warsaw’s Jewish community, ghettoization in 1940, persecution within the ghetto, and its liquidation to the death camp at Treblinka in 1942, and the outbreak of violent resistance in 1943. This is contextualized against Polish antisemitism before and during the war and particular Polish elite reactions to the developing Holocaust. A handful of intelligentsia figures who reacted strongly to antisemitic persecution in various ways demonstrate the complexity of Polish response to the Nazi Holocaust and how prewar and wartime antisemitism widened gulfs between ethnic Poles and the Polish-Jewish community. It argues that, because of a combination of targeted Nazi violence and native antisemitism, Polish elite response to Jewish persecution arose very late, typically only in 1943 with the outbreak of the ghetto uprisings, which captured the attention of resistance-minded Poles.
The National Socialist period was the central formative experience for Romanian Germans, and their identity debates were refracted through the legacy of National Socialism and the Second World War. This chapter charts the origins of these debates in the interwar period, places them in their respective contexts of Cold War Romania and West Germany, and explores the reverberations of these debates in post-Communist Europe. The circle around the Romanian German literary magazine Klingsor in the 1920s and 1930s rehearsed many of the arguments that were to occupy the Romanian German émigré public in the 1970s and 1980s. If the Klingsor writers were part of an interwar European right-wing ‘youth’ movement, then the same ‘old men’ of the 1970s and 1980s formed the vanguard to a turbulent revisionist decade over the fascist past. Far from being a parochial debate about a marginal group, the Romanian German memory wars and ‘little historians’ dispute’ of the 1980s reflect a European and transnational process of making sense of European fascism, war, and expulsions.
This chapter elaborates on the definition of Erdoğanism from the perspective of this book. To define Erdoğanism for the purposes of this book, the chapter first discusses the insecurities, anxieties, and fears of Erdoğanism. After this it analyses the Islamist populism dimension of Erdoğanism and how its narrative divides the nation into real citizens and their enemy the 'evil' Kemalist elite and the Homo LASTus grassroots and also all secular Turks who are dubbed as the 'White Turks'. In this imagination, the out-group is not only comprised of the citizen-enemies, there are also international groups, entities, institutions, lobbying groups and states that collaborate with both the evil White Turk elite. The chapter calls this populism ‘Islamist Civilizationism’. This discussion is followed by an analysis of Erdoğanist victimhood and resentment vis-à-vis the secular sections of society as well as the West. Finally, the chapter attempts to define Erdoğanism.
In Chapter 2, we argue why parental NVR is well-suited to treating entrenched dependence. We describe why attempts at individual therapy for the adult-child or traditional parental counseling usually fail. These failures have different forms, such as: (a) the adult-child refuses therapy; (b) the adult-child accepts therapy, but entitled dependence persists; (c) the parents are advised to show unconditional acceptance, but the dependence remains unaffected; or (d) the parents are advised to be tough, but are daunted when they stumble on frightening escalation. We argue that parents are almost invariably the motivated partners, that they deserve to be viewed as clients in their own right, and that involving the adult-child would distract the parents and the therapist from their job. We elaborate some central insights underlying parental NVR, such as: (a) that the parents' narrative of total responsibility actually prevents improvement; and (b) that parental accommodation aggravates and perpetuates the problem. The chapter concludes with a description of treatment goals and of what changes can be realistically expected.
Since the end of the Georgian-Abkhaz war, the often-precarious status of the Georgians displaced from Abkhazia has received significant academic attention. In contrast, the consequences of displacement from the reverse perspective—how it has affected the people who stayed behind—remains underanalyzed. Drawing on narratives collected during several months of ethnographic fieldwork, this article argues that although ethnic Abkhazians see themselves as victims of ethnic violence rather than perpetrators, the re-distribution of Georgian property nevertheless caused significant distress. Many condemned the practice of appropriation, suggesting that taking what is not one’s own is not only a violation of the property of the original owner, but also of the Abkhaz moral code and therefore shameful. To them, the trophy houses were a curse, both literally—as spaces haunted by former occupants—and metaphorically, as a source and reminder of a certain “moral corruption” within Abkhazian society. However, while the stories around the trophy houses reflect substantial intra-communal divisions, I suggest that they are also an expression of a shared postwar experience. Like the horror stories of Georgian violence, and the tales of Abkhaz heroism, they have become part of an intimate national repertoire constitutive of Abkhazia’s postwar community.
This chapter explores the concept of vulnerability, its recognition and use in international human rights law, and the broader debate on the (potential) advantages and downsides of focusing on vulnerable identities to strengthen protection. Following this overview, it examines core categories of vulnerability that are either already reflected in international human rights law, largely in the form of anti-discrimination instruments, or constitute a priority area in recent debates and legal developments. This includes ‘race’, gender and sexual orientation, persons with disabilities, persons living in extreme poverty, age (the rights of children are addressed in a discreet chapter), as well as refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs). For each of these categories, the chapter examines core notions, highlights specific concerns, charts relevant legal developments and analyses both advancements made and remaining challenges.