Victimhood dissociation and conflict resolution: evidence from the Colombian peace plebiscite

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How does violence shape citizens’ preferences for conflict termination? The existing literature has argued that violence either begets sympathy for more violence or drives support for making peace. Focusing on the 2016 Colombian Peace Agreement, this article finds that victimhood dissociation strongly shapes these preferences. With victimhood dissociation, a discrepancy exists between objective and subjective victimization, and the effect of violence on peace attitudes depends on citizens’ subjective interpretations of their personal experiences of violence. Citizens who do not experience violence often see themselves as victims of the conflict and vice versa. Victimhood dissociation is linked to cultural stereotypes of victimhood as portrayed in elite narratives concerning the conflict. In Colombia, political leaders framed victimhood around rurality, business entrepreneurship, kidnapping, extortion, and disappearance. In 2016, this widespread narrative was instrumental for politicians opposing the peace agreement. Citizens who disassociated their personal experiences of violence from their self-understanding as victims were instrumental to the failure of the peace plebiscite.




Acosta, L. (2021). Victimhood dissociation and conflict resolution: evidence from the Colombian peace plebiscite. Theory and Society.

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