Victims and transitional justice: Voice, agency and blame

Kieran McEvoy, Kirsten McConnachie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the construction of victimhood in transitional societies. Drawn from fieldwork in a dozen jurisdictions as well as elements of criminological, feminist, sociological, philosophical and postcolonial literature, the article focuses in particular on how victimhood is interpreted and acted upon in transitional contexts. It explores the ways in which victims’ voice and agency are realised, impeded or in some cases co-opted in transitional justice. It also examines the role of blame in the construction of victimhood. In particular, it focuses upon the ways in which the importance of blame may render victimhood contingent upon ‘blamelessness’, encourage hierarchies between deserving and undeserving victims and require the reification of blameworthy perpetrators. The article concludes by suggesting that the increased voice and agency associated with the deployment of rights discourses by victims comes at a price – a willingness to acknowledge the rights and humanity of the ‘other’ and to be subject to the same respectful critical inquiry as other social and political actors in a post-conflict society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-513
Number of pages25
JournalSocial & Legal Studies
Issue number4
Early online date11 Sep 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • Agency
  • blame
  • hierarchy
  • innocence
  • transitional justice
  • victims
  • voice

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