Abstract

What kinds of politics are (re)produced when a transitional justice expert seeks out the victim, elects to rescue him from his marginality, categorizes him and represents him on the world stage? More specifically, given the fact that transitional justice experts legitimize their existence on the basis of speaking about and for victims, is it ever possible for the expert to exercise ‘responsibility’ to the victim's story in ways that contribute to the genuine empowerment of the victim? The main aim of this contribution is to make some tentative remarks on how, and what kind of, victims are ‘produced’ by the transitional justice industry. In the first section I make some generalized observations regarding the political subjectivity of victims produced when transitional justice experts speak about and for victims. In the second section I then look at how Khulumani Support Group, a South African-based social movement of over 55,000 members, has negotiated the contradictions brought about by the transitional justice industry and its representations – in a sense of speaking both about and for victims. I conclude that since ‘the story’ is the main point of encounter between the authoritative expert and the marginalized victim, ‘responsibility to the story’ should mean more than being nice to victims or adhering to rigorous scientific and ethical standards; it should also, if not principally, be about redistribution of resources and power. In exercising responsibility to the story experts need to dismantle trusteeship and reproduction of colonial relations.

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