Hierarchies of Victims

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


This chapter identifies four distinct yet overlapping types of victims hierarchies which reflect subjective beliefs about deserving victims in Northern Ireland, and articulates how their varying constructions and implications bear on peacebuilding and reconciliation processes. These include moral hierarchies, which privilege innocence and abstention from violence; hierarchies of attention which demonstrate how certain experiences of victimhood garner greater access to resources like investigative rigour and public influence; pragmatic hierarchies, which attempt to objectively assess and order the severity of individuals’ harm; and finally, intergroup hierarchies which exemplify the ethnocentric processes underpinning the victim-perpetrator paradigm. Intergroup hierarchies overlap significantly with other types, even appropriating the language of morality or severity of need to justify prioritising in-group members as the most deserving victims.


Victims Ideal victim Northern Ireland Hierarchy Intergroup relations 


  1. Bell, Christine. 2003. Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland. Fordham 26: 1095–1147.Google Scholar
  2. Bouris, Erica. 2007. Complex Political Victims. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press Inc.Google Scholar
  3. Brewer, John D. 2006. Memory, Truth and Victimhood in Post-Trauma Societies. In The Sage Handbook of Nations and Nationalism, ed. G. Delanty and K. Kumar, 214–224. London: SAGE.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. ———. 2010. Peace Processes: A Sociological Approach. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  5. Brewer, John D., Bernadette C. Hayes, Katrin Dudgeon, Natascha Mueller-Hirth, Francis Teeney, and Shirley Lal Wijesinghe. 2014. Victims as Moral Beacons of Humanitarianism in Post-Conflict Societies. International Social Science Journal 65 (215–216): 37–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Christie, Nils. 1986. The Ideal Victim. In From Crime Policy to Victim Policy: Reorienting the Justice System, ed. Ezzat A. Fattah, 17–30. London: Macmillan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cory, Peter. 2004. Cory Collusion Inquiry Report: Rosemary Nelson. London: Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  8. Crocker, David. 2003. Reckoning with Past Wrongs: A Normative Framework. In Dilemmas of Reconciliation: Cases and Concepts, ed. C. Prager and T. Govier, 39–63. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Fay, Marie Therese, Mike Morrissey, and Marie Smyth. 1998. Mapping Troubles-Related Deaths in Northern Ireland. Derry/Londonderry: INCORE.Google Scholar
  10. Ferguson, Neil, Mark Burgess, and Ian Hollywood. 2010. Who Are the Victims? Victimhood Experiences in Postagreement Northern Ireland. Political Psychology 31 (6): 857–886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Govier, Trudy. 2003. What Is Acknowledgment and Why Is It Important? In Dilemmas of Reconciliation: Cases and Concepts, ed. Carol A.L. Prager and Trudy Govier, 65–89. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Hegarty, Angela. 2002. The Government of Memory: Public Inquiries and the Limits of Justice in Northern Ireland. Fordham International Law Journal 26 (4): 1148.Google Scholar
  13. Hogg, Michael A. 1996. Intragroup Processes, Group Structure and Social Identity. In Social Groups and Identities: Developing the Legacy of Henri Tajfel, ed. W. Peter Robinson, 65–93. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 2001. Social Categorization, Depersonalization, and Group Behavior. In Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Group Processes, ed. Michael A. Hogg and R.S. Tinsdale, 56–85. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hogg, Michael A., and Dominic Abrams. 1988. Social Identifications: A Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations and Group Processes. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Huyse, Luc. 2003. Victims. In Reconciliation After Violent Conflict: A Handbook, ed. David Bloomfield, Teresa Barnes, and Luc Huyse, 53–66. Stockholm: Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.Google Scholar
  17. Jankowitz, Sarah. 2018. The ‘Hierarchy of Victims’ in Northern Ireland: A Framework for Critical Analysis. International Journal of Transitional Justice 12: 216–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lawther, Cheryl. 2014a. The Construction and Politicisation of Victimhood. In Victims of Terrorism: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Study, ed. Orla Lynch and Jason Argomaniz, 10–30. London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 2014b. Truth, Denial and Transition: Northern Ireland and the Contested Past. Abingdon: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Levi, Primo. 1986. The Drowned and the Saved. London: Abacus.Google Scholar
  21. McDowell, Sara. 2007. Who Are the Victims? Debates, Concepts and Contestation in ‘Post-Conflict’ Northern Ireland. CAIN: Conflict Archive on the Internet.Google Scholar
  22. McEvoy, Kieran, and Kirsten McConnachie. 2012. Victimology in Transitional Justice: Victims, Innocence and Hierarchy. European Journal of Criminology 9: 527–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Miron, Anca M., and Nyla R. Branscombe. 2008. Social Categorization, Standards of Justice, and Collective Guilt. In The Social Psychology of Intergroup Reconciliation, ed. Arie Nadler, Thomas E. Malloy, and J.D. Fisher, 77–96. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Murray, Douglas. 2011. Bloody Sunday: Truth, Lies and the Saville Inquiry. London: Biteback Publishing.Google Scholar
  25. Noor, Masi, Nurit Shnabel, Samer Halabi, and Arie Nadler. 2012. When Suffering Begets Suffering. Personality and Social Psychology Review 16 (4): 351–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Prager, Carol A.L. 2003. Aspects of Understanding and Judging Mass Human Rights Abuses. In Dilemmas of Reconciliation: Cases and Concepts, ed. Carol A.L. Prager and Trudy Govier, 197–219. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Riek, Blake M., Samuel L. Gaertner, John F. Dovidio, Marilynn B. Brewer, Eric W. Mania, and Marika J. Lamoreaux. 2008. A Social-Psychological Approach to Postconflict Reconciliation. In The Social Psychology of Intergroup Reconciliation, ed. Arie Nadler, Thomas E. Malloy, and Jeffrey D. Fisher, 255–273. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rolston, Bill. 2001. Killings by the State. In Future Policies for the Past, Report No. 13, 45–51. Belfast: Democratic Dialogue.Google Scholar
  29. Selimovic, Johanna Mannergren. 2010. Perpetrators and Victims: Local Responses to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Focaal-Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 57: 50–61.Google Scholar
  30. Smyth, Marie. 2003. Putting the Past in Its Place: Issues of Victimhood and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland’s Peace Process. In Burying the Past: Making Peace and Doing Justice after Civil Conflict, ed. Nigel Biggar, 125–153. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  31. ———. 2004. Remembering in Northern Ireland: Victims, Perpetrators and Hierarchies of Pain and Responsibility. In Past Imperfect: Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland and Societies in Transition, ed. Brandon Hamber, 31–49. Derry/Londonderry: INCORE.Google Scholar
  32. Templer, Sara, and Katy Radford. 2008. Hearing the Voice: Sharing Perspectives in the Victim/Survivor Sector. Belfast: Community Relations Council.Google Scholar
  33. UK House of Parliament. 2006. No. 2953 (N.I.17). Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations