The Social Construction of Victimhood and Complex Victims

  • Sarah E. Jankowitz
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Compromise after Conflict book series (PSCAC)


The victim label is constructed and applied subjectively and defined within specific socio-structural contexts. In conflict and transition, the archetypal image of the innocent, moral, and deserving victim constructed opposite the wicked perpetrator is reinforced in transitional justice mechanisms and policies. Such constructions often do not reflect the realities of human experience, and a growing scholarship on complex victims challenges simplistic portrayals of victims as always separate and mutually exclusive from perpetrators. This chapter explores narratives of victimhood in Northern Ireland which fracture narrow constructions of the victim. It similarly considers complex responsibility, engaging with ambiguities of responsibility in conflict before addressing the limitations of complex victimhood in cynical claims to victim status as a means to obscure responsibility.


Victims Innocence Victimology Perpetrators Complex victims 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah E. Jankowitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Irish StudiesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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