The Politics of Victimhood in Post-Conflict Societies: Comparative and Analytical perspectives by Vincent Druliolle and Roddy Brett (Eds.). Palgrave 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-conflict 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 conflict and continue to play out in post-conflict situations, victimhood is used by the different sides in order to have more benefits 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 first place? Legal definitions have dominated the field, typically from the United Nations and the respective national laws in post-conflict countries. But what to do when several victim groups have claims to victimhood and face competition among themselves, who should be heard and prioritized? These are difficult challenges that do not have straight-forward answers.
The volume "The Politics of Victimhood in Post-Conflict Societies" is a book that is long overdue to address these issues. The editors, Vincent Druliolle and Roddy Brett, rightly claim that the victim as a political actor still has not been sufficiently considered within the transitional justice literature, thus they follow the call of Garcia-Godos (2016, 357) to fill that void, that challenges implicit assumptions about victims as just passive or apolitical actors. Four main contributions of this book are identified: 1) differentiating between victims and victimhood instead of taking the victim identity for granted, 2) analyzing victims as public figures and political actors, 3) the politics of victimhood and 4) victims as agents of change in times of transition. Druliolle and Brett assume that victimhood is socially and politically constructed, and their focus is about the political mobilization of victims that can ultimately allow them to be change agents instead of just passive subjects.
The framing of the book is insightful as it directs the reader into the complex questions surrounding victims. The proposed differentiation between victimhood and the politics of victimhood provides more clarity to this debate: on the one hand, discussing the role and identity of victims in post-conflict societies, while on the other hand, exploring the process of...