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Temporalities of victimhood: time in the study of post-conflict societies.

Mueller-Hirth, Natascha



Researchers in peace and conflict studies have rarely focused on time and temporality. This article seeks to extend the literature on the politics of victimhood by examining the context of a mature post-transition society, drawing on qualitative research with victims/survivors of gross human rights violations in South Africa. Two decades after the democratic transition, there is a prevalent understanding that it is finally time for victims to 'move on'. In contrast to the supposed linear temporality of peace processes however, the consequences of past violence continue to impact on interviewees' lives and are exacerbated by contemporary experiences of victimisation. I identify several areas of temporal conflict that characterise post-conflict societies: victimhood as temporary/ victimhood as continuous; the pace of national reconciliation/ the time(s) of individual healing; and the speed of a neoliberal economy/ the pace of social transformation. I also examine temporal inequalities that reflect broader socio-economic marginalisation, such as being made to wait for reparations. This temporal analysis of victimhood not only highlights the mismatch between victims' perceptions and needs and the expectations of broader society, but it also draws attention to the temporality of transitional processes and programmes at different social and institutional levels.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 1, 2017
Journal Sociological forum
Print ISSN 0884-8971
Electronic ISSN 1573-7861
Publisher Wiley Open Access
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue 1
Pages 186-206
Institution Citation MUELLER-HIRTH, N. 2017. Temporalities of victimhood: time in the study of post-conflict societies. Sociological forum [online], 32(1), pages 186-206. Available from:
Keywords Victimhood; Temporality; Time; Post conflict; South Africa; Violence


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