The politics of victimhood

Laura Jeffery*, Matei Candea

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


Politics: The science and art of government; the science dealing with the form, organization, and administration of a state or part of one, and with the regulation of its relations with other states (hence, imperial, national, domestic, municipal, communal, parochial, foreign politics, etc.).

fig. Conduct of private affairs; politic management, scheming, planning.

Victim: One who is reduced or destined to suffer under some oppressive or destructive agency. One who perishes or suffers in health, etc., from some enterprise or pursuit voluntarily undertaken. In weaker sense: One who suffers some injury, hardship, or loss, is badly treated or taken advantage of, etc. (Oxford English Dictionary 2006)

There is a submerged tension in the title of this collection. Anthropologists have become so accustomed to the “politics of...” formula that it has lost its shock value and perhaps also its analytical sharpness. But combine it with victimhood, we will argue, and some of its edge comes back. Contributors to this special issue seek to understand the interface between victimhood and politics. Why might people seek to be recognized as victims? How do claims to passive victimization come up against counter-claims of agency or perpetration? How should we relate to claims to subalterneity when such claims are deployed also by states and powerful groups? How should we attend to expressions of suffering when such expressions obscure or deny others’ suffering? And what are the consequences for anthropology of sharpening the analysis of the politics of victimhood?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-296
Number of pages10
JournalHistory and Anthropology
Issue number4
Early online date29 Nov 2006
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2006


Dive into the research topics of 'The politics of victimhood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this