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The Concept of the Victim in Midrashic Literature

In Memory of Sheila Shulman, who Loved Midrash

Joanna Weinberg

is that of the persecuted or victim. God’s justice is viewed through His preference for or rather selection of the victim; and this selection carries with it promise of final redemption and consolation for those who belong to the category of the

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Perpetrators and victims

Local responses to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Johanna Mannergren Selimovic

This article juxtaposes local understandings and narratives on justice and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina with those of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). By looking at notions of collective innocence/guilt, the development of victim identities, and the relativization of the suffering of the other, it explores the failure of the ICTY to offer a convincing model of transitional justice in Bosnia. Although the ICTY disciplines the boundary between victim and perpetrator through measures for shared truth and individual justice, local discourses resist or transform these representations, thus tending to entrench rather than transcend national divisions. The findings of this article challenge prevalent instrumentalist understandings of transitional justice and its role in facilitating reconciliation. The article focuses on the communities of Konjic and Srebrenica and the ICTY outreach conferences held in these towns in 2004 and 2005.

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From Victim to Villain

Cycling, Traffic Policy, and Spatial Conflicts in Stockholm, circa 1980

Martin Emanuel

This article employs a social practice approach to analyze the boom and bust of cycling in Stockholm around 1980, in the context of broader socioeconomic trends and under the influence of new cyclists, bicycle innovation, and local traffic policy. Within a predominantly car-based city traffic regime, which rendered some mobility practice more legitimate than others, measures intended for cyclists were taken at the expense of pedestrians rather than motorists. Because of a blend of more cyclists, faster bicycles, and design choices based on the car as norm, the image of the cyclist transformed from that of the victim (of automobility) to the villain, and, for this reason, cycling was less easily supported by local politicians. Combined with the second wave of automobility in the 1980s, bicycle policy and planning lost its steam, and cycling declined.

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Consoling police victims with symbolic politics?

The Movimiento del Dolor and the Argentinean state

Marieke Denissen

In recent years police violence and impunity have become important items on the societal and political agenda in Argentina. The family members of police victims, coming together in the Movimiento del Dolor, take up a prominent place in holding the government accountable by means of repeated demonstrations, the creation of civil society organizations, and participation in public debate. In response, the Kirchner administration started a ‘politics of rapprochement’ in an attempt to establish alliances with family members of victims. The clearest expression of this politics is the creation of the PNAI, the national program against impunity, an initiative in which family members of victims participate actively. Consequences for the relations between the latter and the state and among family members of victims themselves will be examined. The ‘politics of rapprochement’ is an attempt to co-opt the Movimiento del Dolor, but at the same time includes elements of cooperation. It is a government initiative to show it is on the side of the victims but at the same time is criticized by part of the victims for being just symbolic politics that ignores the necessary large-scale transformations that the police and the judiciary have to undergo in order to stop the impunity in Argentina.

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The antimonies of the PAH (Platform of Mortgage Victims) in Spain

Between solidarity and political effectiveness

Monique Nuijten and Pieter de Vries

of these was the PAH (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, or the Platform of Mortgage Victims), which was founded two years before 15M in Barcelona with the aim of supporting the many households in Spain that due to the financial crisis could no

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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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Who Is a Victim of Communism?

Gender and Public Memory in the Sighet Museum, Romania

Alina Haliliuc

The Memorial Museum of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance is the main museum of communism in Romania. This article a ends to this museum's politics of representing gender and argues that its exhibits reify resistance to and victimization by the communist regime as masculine. The museum marginalizes women, in general, and renders unmemorable women's lives under Nicolae Ceauşescu's pronatalist regime, in particular. The absence is significant because Romania is the only country in the former communist bloc where women experienced unique forms of systematic political victimization under Ceauşescu's nationalist-socialist politics of forced birth. This article illustrates how the museum's investment in an anti-communist discourse creates a gendered representation of political action under the communist regime.

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Jenny Wüstenberg

The memory landscape in Germany has been lauded for its pluralism: for reckoning with the past not only critically but in its many complex facets. Nevertheless, particularly victims of repression in East Germany lament that their plight is not adequately represented and some have recently affiliated themselves with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and other groups on the far-right spectrum. This article seeks to explain the seeming contradiction between existing pluralism in German public memory and dissatisfaction with it by tracing how memory activists have shaped memory policy and institutions. Based on extensive interview and archival research, I argue that the infiltration of civil society into the institutions that govern memory in large part explains the strength of critical memory in unified Germany and the country’s ability to accommodate a variety of pasts. However, there is also a distinct lack of pluralism when it comes to the rules of “how memory is done,” to the exclusion of more emotional and politicized approaches that are sometimes favored by some victims’ groups. Using the case of the recent debate about the Hohenschönhausen Memorial, I contend that this explains some of the attraction felt by these groups towards the right.

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Ruth Klüger

Reflections on Auschwitz

Birgit Maier-Katkin

Austrian-born Ruth Klüger was a teenager when she and her mother were deported first to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, then to Auschwitz, and later to Christianstadt. This article examines Klüger's memoir weiter leben in which she records her memories and assessments of her experience in these concentration camps. It considers her critical stance toward the postwar Holocaust memory culture and focuses on Klüger's relationship with German thought and language. In particular, during her imprisonment in Auschwitz, German poetry played an important role in her survival. This offers new insight into Theodor Adorno's statement (which he later retracted) that “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.“ As questions about German identity are raised, this article suggests a discourse about the Holocaust from within German culture and points to questions about the intricate relationship of a shared cultural background between victim and perpetrator.

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Narmala Halstead

In this article, I examine a range of petty transactions in Guyana which also render the state visible in everyday practices. Various police and other officials intervene in domestic incidents and minor affrays where they are ‘topped up’ by ‘ordinary people’, as payments for them to be less powerful. They rely on a local ideal model of the state which constructs it in opposition to people. Both the particular officials and people use or contest this model in power negotiations. The transactions occur through or alongside violence, variously experienced. Certain officials compete for the role of victims with the people who suffer at their hands, while their victims can make efforts to empower themselves. The resulting mode of victimhood is also about agency. In the alternating roles of victim and agent, people and officials also engage in complicit partnerships. The partnerships relate to another local ideal model about corruption as necessary to make things work. The power negotiations and violence, however, both question this model and that of the state as one of containment and as isolated from society. While sudden brutal violence occurs, it is the trivial violence as part of the everyday which constantly demonstrates victims, agents and the state in a landscape of power relations. The transactions also illustrate an ideal model of the state as extraordinary. In turn, trivial violence routinises these understandings.