Cover

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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction. Histories of Victimhood: Assemblages, Transactions, and Figures

Henrik Ronsbo, Steffen Jensen

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pp. 1-22

Human suffering presents the social sciences with a fundamental dilemma. As social scientists, we often withdraw from suffering or reduce the suffering bodies we face to the status of hapless victims—or we look for agency and force of individuals who can beat the system they suffer or remake their own experiences of suffering in transcendental form. The present collection tackles...

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1. Why Social Scientists Should Care How Jesus Died

Darius Rejali

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pp. 23-43

In this chapter, I reconstruct the story of how we came to have the concept of humane violence. Humane violence is a critical concept when one debates violence today. Inhumane violence needs justification, and, failing that, it marks one as a victim of injustice. Humane violence does not. How one decides the humanity of violence then indexes one’s claims to victimhood. If...

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2. Bodies of Partition: of Widows, Residue, and Other Historical Waste

Ravinder Kaur

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pp. 44-63

A “historical wound,” it has been noted, is a sign of misrecognition of injury that locates the past as the site of the original slight and its redress in the present as a condition for rearrangement of the social compact (Attwood, Chakrabarty, and Lomnitz 2008). Dipesh Chakrabarty further suggests that to publicize the wound, or to speak in its name, is “to be already on the path...

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3. “Extremely Poor” Mothers and Debit Cards: The Families in an Action Cash-Transfer Program in Colombia

Stine Finne Jakobsen

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pp. 64-82

One morning when I had walked through Villa Hermosa to visit Blanca’s house to talk with her, I found that she already had a guest. A young social worker from the local nongovernmental organization (NGO) País (Country) was making house visits to give a talk about hygiene. I sat and observed the encounter. The social worker touched on three main themes: (1) garbage...

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4. How to Become a Victim: Pragmatics of the Admission of Women in a South African Primary Health Care Clinic

Frédéric Le Marcis

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pp. 83-103

The day after Treasury Minister Trevor Manuel announced South Africa’s 2003–4 national budget, the nurses at the Primary Health Care clinic where I was working with an HIV support group made much comment at the staff’s morning meeting. They had mixed feelings about this budget. They all agreed it would decrease poverty, as the old age grant had been increased from 650...

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5. Negotiating Victimhood in Nkomazi, South Africa

Steffen Jensen

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pp. 104-123

Victimhood is a moral category. True, victims are construed as carrying little blame for their predicament and, therefore, deserving of our attention. However, to echo the Introduction to this volume, the morality of the victim is negotiated, and victimhood cannot be explored as a substantive category of objectifiable suffering only. Rather, victims become victims and are made real...

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6. Between Recognition and Care: Victims, NGOs, and the State in the Guatemalan Postconflict Victimhood Assemblages

Henrik Ronsbo, Walter Paniagua

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pp. 124-143

What is the relationship between the recognition of victims and the reproduction of modern forms of state power? What are the relations between care for victims and the perpetuation of legitimacy? Is the victim somehow beyond language and resistance, displaced to a space of silence as suggested by Scarry (1985)? Or is the victim the locus for the generation of power, as suggested...

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7. Recognizing Torture: Credibility and the Unstable Codification of Victimhood

Tobias Kelly

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pp. 144-160

This chapter explores the conditions under which people can gain legal recognition as torture victims. Torture survivors are often, formally at least, singled out for specific attention, as deserving of particular respect for what they have suffered. How, then, can legal regimes recognize when torture has taken place? Literary critic Elaine Scarry (1984) has famously argued that the...

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8. The Power of Dead Bodies

Nerina Weiss

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pp. 161-178

This chapter is about dead bodies and the struggle of defining them. Focusing on the multilayered metaphor of the Kurdish guerrilla corpse, it elaborates on the political dimensions of the category of victimhood and thus expands in several ways on the discussion introduced by the editors of this volume. Jensen and Ronsbo argue persuasively for studying the concept of...

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9. Why Is Muna Crying? Event, Relation, and Immediacy as Criteria for Acknowledging Suffering in Palestine

Lotte Buch Segal

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pp. 179-197

During fieldwork in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt) in 2007, I participated in a training session in group therapy for twenty Palestinian counselors in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Two Spanish psychotherapists facilitated the course—a vital element of which was learning how to enable the clients to establish what in therapeutic vernacular is termed a “safe place.” One...

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10. Departures of Decolonization: Interstitial Spaces, Ordinary Affect, and Landscapes of Victimhood in Southern Africa

Pamila Gupta

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pp. 198-217

With Portuguese colonial rule in Angola coming to a (scheduled) end in November 1975, the majority of its white population departed in a matter of a few weeks, making difficult choices about where to relocate, about where to start over again. While the majority returned to the metropole, others settled (or had little choice in the matter) on a geographically closer but less obvious...

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11. Performances of Victimhood, Allegation, and Disavowal in Sierra Leone

Andrew M. Jefferson

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pp. 218-238

On June 12, 2006, a group of forty-three men, women, and children were arrested following a protest at the local office of the UNHCR in Freetown Sierra Leone. The protest was designed to draw attention to local corruption, years of neglect, and, most potently, to claims that identities and stories of suffering were being systematically stolen—“they are selling our names,” as one of...

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12. Victims in the Moral Economy of Suffering: Narratives of Humiliation, Retaliation, and Sacrifice

Sofie Danneskiold-Samsøe

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pp. 239-256

One evening during Ashura, Iman1 approached me at Hussainiya al-Sadr2 in Copenhagen. She had heard about me and wanted to know more about my study of Iraqi suffering. Her own story of how she had given birth to her daughter in prison was well known, but she wanted to tell me herself. In the jumble of women’s talk and children’s play, Iman told me the short version of...

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Epilogue. Histories of Victimhood: Assemblage, Transaction, and Figure

Elizabeth A. Povinelli

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pp. 257-264

At least since Nietzsche penned his infamous words about “the man of ressentiment,” the scholarship on suffering has been fractured into two often antagonist halves—the phenomenology of sufferers and the politics of suffering. Not all critics follow Nietzsche’s brutal reading of the genealogy of the victim—the man who makes of his suffering a righteous condition. But the...

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Contributors

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pp. 265-268

Sofie Danneskiold-Samsøe teaches at the Institute for Society and Globalisation, Roskilde University. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Copenhagen. Her research focuses on social suffering and gendered violence among Middle Eastern families in the context of the welfare...

Index

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pp. 269-272

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 273-274

This volume grows out of the ideas developed by the intellectual environment created around the participants in the research program “Histories of Victimhood.” The Victimhood program was supported by grants from the Danish Council for Independent Research in Social Sciences and the Danish Council for Strategic Research in Development Studies with additional funding provided...