[Research seminar] ‘Heroes and Hierarchies: The Celebration and Censure of Victimhood in Transitional Justice’

01 October 2020
  • Starts at: 15:30h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: Online
  • Organiser: T.M.C. Asser Instituut

On 1 October, the Asser Institute is proud to welcome Dr Cheryl Lawther. During this research seminar, she will be presenting her paper: ‘Heroes and Hierarchies: The Celebration and Censure of Victimhood in Transitional Justice’

Victims of past abuses are often the subject of transitional celebration: their recognition after a transition ‘upwardly re-values the disrespected identities of those who were victimised by a previous regime’, with those formerly treated with contempt now treated with dignity and elevated from deviants to ‘moral beacons’.  Such celebration of certain variants of victimhood and the censure of others readily lends itself to the creation of ‘hierarchies of victimhood’ where those who consider themselves or are considered by others to be ‘innocent’ victims dispute the ‘deservingness’ of other ‘bad’ or ‘impure’ victims. 

Based on fieldwork in Northern Ireland, this paper deconstructs the creation of hierarchies of victimhood. It draws on three overlapping themes – hierarchies of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ victims; hierarchies and heroes for the cause; and hierarchies and ‘the silence of social opprobrium’. This paper demonstrates that across both parties to the conflict in Northern Ireland, hierarchies of victimhood are predicated on highlighting the victimhood of one’s own heroes while silencing the uncomfortable aspects of own’s own past. The result is not only a partial representation of who ‘counts’ as a victim, but the failure to recognise the victimhood of the vast majority of those affected by the conflict – civilians.

Asser research seminars

During the Asser Research Seminars, external researchers are invited to present their current and upcoming research with the Asser research community. The seminars are semi-open, as we invite a few external people who may be interested in the specific topic of the seminar. However, we aim to keep the group’s size limited, to stimulate interaction and high quality, in-depth discussions. Researchers who are interested in presenting their research to the Asser research community are welcome to send an e-mail to Dr Christophe Paulussen (c.paulussen@asser.nl). 

For more information about past research seminars, please see here.