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Interpretative Repertoire of Victimhood

Narrating Experiences of Discrimination and Ethnic Hatred among Polish Migrants in Belfast

Marta Kempny

Based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork, this article discusses the narratives of perceived discrimination and ethnic hatred of Polish migrants in Belfast. Using narrative theory, it examines the construction of identity of Poles as an unprivileged stratum of the Northern Irish society. Migrants' stories are followed by analysis of the contradictions and tensions between what they construct as their realities and 'objective truth'. Subsequently, the article accounts for these tensions by exploring the links between 'cultural repertoires' of Polish migrants and the ways in which their narratives are presented.

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Epilogue

Mapping the Topography of Oppression

Jenny White

During today’s crisis in Turkey, victimhood authorises oppression, oppressors see themselves as victims and the oppressed are not only the poor, but educated middle classes. Citizen and state are imbricated in the same political and discursive fields where people mobilise against one another, some moving up and others down, creating unexpected landscapes of victimisation and oppression that do not fit comfortably in literature that analyses ‘politics from below’. How do we conceptualise this in a way that respects people’s understanding of their coordinates in a complex landscape of power? This article interrogates some basic assumptions of this literature, including the impact of the observer’s position and the oppression/resistance framework, replacing it with a model of politics as a shared horizontal topography of action across a terrain of values.

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Human Rights, Victimhood, and Impunity

An Anthropology of Democracy in Argentina

Michael Humphrey and Estela Valverde

This article explores human rights politics in the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Argentina. Its ethnographic focus is the phenomenon of families of victims associations, usually led by mothers, that first emerged to protest against mass disappearance under the military dictatorship. Democracy has also produced new families of victims associations protesting against different forms of state abuse and/or neglect. They represent one face of the widespread protest against a 'culture of impunity' experienced as ongoing insecurity and injustice. Private grief is made an emotional resource for collective action in the form of 'political mourning'. The media, street demonstrations, and litigation are used to try to make the state accountable. State management of this public suffering has sought to determine legitimate victimhood based on a paradigm of innocence. The political mourning of victims and survivors charts the social margins of citizenship in the reduced, not expanded, neo-liberal democratic state in Argentina.

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Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider

Images of German victims have become a ubiquitous feature of political debates and mass-mediated cultural events in recent years. This paper argues that changing representations of the Holocaust have served as a political cultural prism through which histories of German victimhood can be renegotiated. More specifically, we explore how the centrality of the Holocaust in Germany informs how the postwar expulsion of twelve million ethnic Germans has been remembered during the last sixty years. Most interpretations of the destruction of European Jewry and the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia and their corresponding memory cultures treat these memories as mutually exclusive manifestations of competing perceptions of national self understanding. We suggest that memories of both the Holocaust and expulsions are entwined. The Holocaust remains a specific event but also spans a universalizing human rights discourse that conceals the magnitude of the Holocaust as a particular historical occurrence; at the same time, the expulsion stops being a particular event and is being reframed as a universal evil called "ethnic cleansing." Examining recent political and public debates about how the expulsions of ethnic Germans are politicized and remembered reveals how comparisons to other incidents of state sanctioned violence and claims of singularity shape the balance of universal and particular modes of commemoration.

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Siobhan Kattago

Commemorating National Socialism and Communism from the perspective

of 1989 often results in an uneasy conflation of German

guilt and victimhood. When the events of 1933-1989 are presented

as one long authoritarian period, war and tyranny can easily be construed

as external forces that simply befell the German nation.

While memories of national guilt are divisive, memories of victimhood

unify and simplify an otherwise ambiguous past. The 1995

restoration of Berlin’s Neue Wache is emblematic of this conflation

of guilt and victimhood. As the central German memorial to all victims

of war and tyranny, the Neue Wache neither distinguishes

between dictatorships, nor between perpetrator and victim.

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Balancing Victimhood and Complicity in Austrian History Textbooks

Visual and Verbal Strategies of Representing the Past in Post-Waldheim Austria

Ina Markova

This article focuses on the impact of images on reconstructions of the past. In order to analyze the function of images in history textbooks, image-discourse analysis is applied to a case study of Austrian postwar memory. The analysis of recent Austrian history textbooks provides insight into strategies by which notions of Austria as both "victim" and "perpetrator" of the National Socialist regime are held in balance. The article also focuses on the intentional framing of iconic depictions of two central Austrian sites of memory, Heroes' Square (Heldenplatz) and the State Treaty (Staatsvertrag).

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An Indochinese Vichy Syndrome?

Remembering and Forgetting World War II Indochina

M. Kathryn Edwards and Eric Jennings

This article analyzes the complex memorial stakes of the events that unfolded in French Indochina during World War II. It first considers the wartime years and analyzes the French frameworks for understanding the Vichy period and the Japanese takeover. It then delves into two memorial trends: the rehabilitation of the French resistance in Indochina and the commemoration of victims of the 9 March 1945 Japanese coup. These trends have produced a double elision: the focus on resistance to the Japanese has displaced previous allegiance to Vichy, and the emphasis on the victimhood of the French settler community has overshadowed responsibility for colonial violence.

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Diana Pinto

Unwillingly and unwittingly, Jews have become 'icons' in Europe's new commemorative pluralist democracies. They have now set the standard for national commemoration of specific historical wrongs, for victimhood, for public visibility, for community organisation, for the right to multiple loyalties, and for a position that one can call selective national belonging; in brief, for real but also highly symbolic power. The main challenge Jews will be facing in the future will be that of making sure these 'iconic' rights are spread more globally in a setting of greater collective justice. But Jews, more than any other group, can also set the limits to too strong an identity pursuit. I believe there is an urgent need to recast a common belonging inside our respective countries and societies. The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of sanctified specific identities. The time has come to move it back toward a more moderate centre. Commemoration should lead to reconciliation, overcoming of the past, and healing, not to exacerbated identities. And Jews, precisely because of their iconic quality, now hold the keys to such a swing back. Otherwise we should not be surprised if Europe's Muslims follow the Jews in the path of declared victimhood, selective belonging, even disintegration through an implicitly hostile reading of the larger society outside.

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Offshore Desires

Mobility, Liquidity and History in Shakespeare’s Mediterranean

Rui Carvalho Homem

Abstract

This article probes the ability of Shakespearean drama to provide expressive resources for coming to terms (conceptually, discursively) with current crises. These include both the power games of global finance, and those disasters that ostensibly concern other strands of geopolitics. The article focuses on two plays, The Comedy of Errors and Pericles, the actions of which unfold in the eastern Mediterranean – an area of the world associated, in the late modern imagination, either with mobility as pleasure (mass tourism and its apparatus) or mobility as crisis (disputed territories, the plight of displaced populations). It highlights the close bonds between prevalent modes – satire and farce in The Comedy of Errors, romance in Pericles – and the plays’ distinct strategies for representing human mobility: the sense of agency proper to acquisitive urges, the victimhood of forced displacement.

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Deevia Bhana and Emmanuel Mayeza

In this article we focus on sixty South African primary schoolgirls’ experiences of male violence and bullying. Rejecting outmoded constructions of schoolgirls as passive, we examine how girls draw on different forms of femininity to manage and address violence at school. These femininities are non-normative in their advancing of violence to stop violence but are also imbued with culturally relevant meanings about care, forgiveness, and humanity based on the African principle of ubuntu. Moving away from the discursive production of girls’ victimhood, we show how girls construct their own agency as they actively participate in multiple forms of femininity advocating both violence and forgiveness. Given the absence of teacher and parental support for girls’ safety, we conclude with a call to address interventions contextually, from schoolgirls’ own perspectives.