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Histories of Victimhood
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Histories of Victimhood

Edited by Steffen Jensen and Henrik Ronsbo

280 pages | 6 x 9 | 1 illus.
Cloth 2014 | ISBN 9780812245851 | $65.00s | Outside the Americas £52.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Ethnography of Political Violence

"A powerful and original book that builds a fascinating and deeply disturbing picture of how ideas about victimhood are worked to carve up, categorize, rank, and order the vast and diverse panoply of human suffering and draw attention to the material and political consequences of these processes. Through its careful and sustained focus on the different actors and objects involved in the production of victimhood in a variety of contexts, Jensen and Ronsbo offer a unique and highly original contribution to scholarly understandings of victimhood and suffering."—Julia O'Connell Davidson, University of Nottingham
The word and concept of victim bear a heavy weight. To represent oneself or to be represented as a victim is often a first and vital step toward having one's suffering and one's claims to rights socially and legally recognized. Yet to name oneself or be called a victim is a risky claim, and social scientists must struggle to avoid erasing either survivors' experience of suffering or their agency and resourcefulness. Histories of Victimhood engages with this dilemma, asking how one may recognize and acknowledge suffering without essentializing affected communities and individuals.

This volume tackles the theoretical and empirical questions surrounding the ways victims and victimhood are constructed, represented, and managed by state and nonstate actors. Geographically broad, the twelve essays in this volume trace histories of victimhood in Colombia, India, South Africa, Guatemala, Angola, Sierra Leone, Turkey, Occupied Palestine, Denmark, and Britain. They examine the implications of victimhood in a wide range of contexts, including violent occupations, displacement, war, reparation projects, refugee assistance, HIV treatment, trauma intervention, social welfare projects, and state formation. In exploring varying forms of hardship and identifying what people do to survive, how they make sense of their own suffering, and how they are frequently either acted upon or ignored by humanitarian agencies and states, Histories of Victimhood encourages us to see victimhood not as a definite and definable category of experience but as a changeable and culturally contingent state.

Contributors: Sofie Danneskiold-Samsøe, Pamila Gupta, Ravinder Kaur, Stine Finne Jakobsen, Andrew M. Jefferson, Steffen Jensen, Tobias Kelly, Frédéric Le Marcis, Walter Paniagua, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Darius Rejali, Henrik Ronsbo, Lotte Buch Segal, Nerina Weiss.

Steffen Jensen is Senior Researcher at Dignity: Danish Institute Against Torture. He is the author of Gangs, Politics and Dignity in Cape Town and coeditor (with Andrew Jefferson) of State Violence and Human Rights: State Officials in the South.

Henrik Ronsbo is Senior Researcher at Dignity: Danish Institute Against Torture and has published many articles on the effects of violence and civil wars in Latin America.

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