Narrating victimhood: dilemmas and (in)dignities

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This article was named the runner-up for the 2019 Enloe Award. The committee commented: This article addresses several provocative questions about the emphasis on “victimhood” in feminist studies of conflict and transitional justice. The author situates her own researcher positionality in the politics of knowledge production about women’s narratives of “victimhood” in Colombia’s transition from violence, reflecting on methodology and theorizing her active role in generating accounts, co-producing and participating in hierarchies, and imposing meaning onto fieldwork contexts. The article offers creative ways to rethink and reimagine the political, discursive, and spatial dimensions of gender, violence, the state, the transitional justice industry, and the politics of victimhood and agency. ABSTRACT Feminist researchers are increasingly paying attention to the politics of victimhood during transitions from violence. In this article, I address the dilemmas of researching victimhood when the researcher herself is part of the production of its politics and hierarchies. Based on in-depth fieldwork in Colombia, I examine dilemmas related to (1) directing the research gaze during transitions from war; (2) investigating violence without requiring people to re-narrate harms suffered during armed conflict; (3) engaging with both voluntary and imposed silences; and (4) navigating the complicated tug of loyalties among conflict-affected actors. I argue that ethics and methods are inseparable from each other, from the findings of the research, and from the meaningful study of power and violence. Collectively, these insights contribute to an ongoing interdisciplinary conversation about power and politics in the study of violence.




Krystalli, R. C. (2021). Narrating victimhood: dilemmas and (in)dignities. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 23(1), 125–146.

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