Identity and Victimhood. Questions for Conflict Management Practice

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.

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