Two decades after violence broke out following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, considerable obstacles continue to challenge those struggling for justice in the region. In Bosnia-Herzegovina especially, the success of nationalist ideologies and the ethnic cleansing that was their outcome—ending in an awkward internationally engineered system of governance—have left in their wake a host of vexing, interrelated problems. By now, their effects are well known to scholars and peace-building practitioners working in the region: an impoverished political framework that remains starkly divided along ethnic lines and is rife with corruption, a deep distrust of political leaders, persistent inequality, and little interest in reconciling with those who became wartime enemies.
Can we regard all victims, including victims who become perpetrators, in the same light ethically, politically or legally? This is a theoretical discussion drawing from a diverse body of literature from political theory, philosophy, and the social sciences, to the work of peace and conflict studies and practitioners of reconciliation and conflict management. It begins with a general discussion of identity as it relates to politics, looking briefly at North American discussions of the social construction of identity and relating this discourse to conflict management in the twenty-first century. Secondly, it demonstrates what Mamdani means by the “worldview of the rat” in the context of the Rwandan genocide and outline the dangers of the binary logic such a worldview imprisons us within. This third section will discusses in more detail the condition and status of the victim today, keeping in mind the question: “who is a victim?” particularly as it pertains to the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine. Fourth, it explores current discussions of the efficacy of dialogue groups, again mostly in Israel and Palestine, and attempt to draw out the implications for conflict management practice. Finally, it draws some conclusions regarding the remaking of political community that does not have the production of binary identities at its origin.