The unhappy marriage of victimhood and citizenship in transitional justice
: exploring the potential of gender-just transformative reparations in Colombia

  • Sanne Weber

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis analyses whether transitional justice (TJ) can contribute to the transformation of structural gendered inequality by exploring the scope and potential of gender-just transformative reparations. It does so by identifying the gaps between survivors’ experiences of gendered TJ and their needs, demands and hopes for the future. This way, it provides insights into how TJ can be improved to better respond to the needs of survivors and contribute to the transformation of gendered and other structural inequalities. Colombia’s Victims’ Law was used as a case study for this research, providing new empirical data to explore the increasingly popular concept of transformative reparations.

    This data was collected through ethnographic and participatory visual research methods, based on a feminist postmodernist approach to participatory epistemologies and methodologies. Fieldwork took place between August 2015 and April 2016 in two small communities of former internally displaced persons on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. Semi-structured and photo-elicitation interviews, as well as visual and non-visual focus groups were undertaken with 32 community participants, as well as semi-structured interviews with 15 non-community stakeholders. Participant observation and informal conversations took place with many more community members and stakeholders.

    This thesis offers new ways of thinking about gendered TJ, critically engaging with several ongoing debates within the field. In terms of the theoretical separation of reparations and development, this thesis argues for the blurring of the lines between them in order to connect reparations to wider goals of social justice, as a prerequisite for including survivors as equal citizens. Building on this, it calls for a shift in the way TJ addresses its beneficiaries, arguing for the adoption of a citizenship approach instead of TJ’s traditional victimhood focus. Finally, it outlines a new way of giving shape to gender-just transformative reparations, taking the building of gendered practices of active citizenship as a guiding principle, in order to enhance survivors’ agency and their ability to take the future in their own hands.
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorMichaelina Jakala (Supervisor), EJ Milne (Supervisor) & Rosalind Searle (Supervisor)

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