Desafíos, Bogotá (Colombia), (31-1): 365-371, semestre I de 2019
Recognizing Victims as
Political Actors: Expanding a
More Complex Identity
The Politics of Victimhood in Post-Conict Societies: Comparative and
perspectives by Vincent Druliolle and Roddy Brett (Eds.). Pal-
grave Macmillan, 2018.
A central claim of transitional justice is to be victim-centered. The
participation of victims has increased over the years and they are, by
now, considered as protagonists who cannot be ignored any longer in
a peace processes and transitional justice mechanisms in post-conict
societies (Mendez, 2016). And yet, victims continue to be simplistically
portrayed as innocent, pure, lack of responsibility and with a moral
superiority—instead of constructing a “complex victim” (Bouris,
2007). In contested narratives that typically emerge already during
armed conict and continue to play out in post-conict situations,
victimhood is used by the different sides in order to have more ben-
ets on their end. In short, victimhood is not only a moral and legal
issue but is very much political.1
The increasing recognition that there are different forms of victimhood
has been laid out, not least in the 2016 special issue of the International
Journal of Transitional Justice. However, who is a victim in the rst place?
Legal denitions have dominated the eld, typically from the United
Nations and the respective national laws in post-conict countries. But
* Independent researcher based in Hamburg, Germany. E-mail: langerjohannes@gmail.
1 For a legal debate about victims, the volume of Bonacker and Safferling (2013) is useful.
Vanfraechem, Pemberton and Ndahinda (2014) have come up with a particularly encom-
passing book about victims and justice with ways forward towards reconciliation.