Addressing Past Injustice, Empowering for the Future? Reparation Policies and ‘Victim’ or ‘Survivor’ Identities in Tolima, Colombia

John Jairo Uribe, Ulrike Theuerkauf, Maria del Pilar Salamanca, Santiago Padilla, Iokine Rodriguez Fernandez, Cristina Sala Valdes

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Colombia’s Victims and Land Restitution Law of 2011 (Law 1448) has established an ambitious reparation framework. In a novel contribution to existing scholarship on transformative justice, we highlight how the de jure potential of Law 1448 remains de facto constrained by its ineffective implementation. Using primary data that was collected in six municipalities of Tolima, Colombia, between August 2016 and November 2020, we highlight how the limited realisation of Law 1448’s transformative aspirations has contributed to a complex co-existence of ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ identities in research participants’ self-descriptions. Our findings show a distinct pattern in research participants’ narratives, whereby survivor identities were primarily invoked in discussions about Tolima’s and Colombia’s post-conflict future, while victim identities featured more prominently in narratives about Colombia’s reparation framework and its failure to provide individual, material benefits. We argue that this pattern reflects the ambiguities of a reparation framework that, in its design, emphasises the transformation of victims into empowered agents, but struggles to fulfil its promises in practice due to insufficient resources, staffing and institutional capacity. To fully understand the pitfalls and opportunities of transformative justice, researchers need to pay closer attention to its impact on people’s everyday survival strategies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCivil Wars
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Feb 2023

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