The Violence of Victimhood

By (author) Diane Enns

Paperback - £24.95

Publication date:

15 May 2013

Length of book:

248 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271052434

We know that violence breeds violence. We need look no further than the wars in the western Balkans, the genocide in Rwanda, or the ongoing crisis in Israel and Palestine. But we don’t know how to deal with the messy moral and political quandaries that result when victims become perpetrators. When the line between guilt and innocence wavers and we are confronted by the suffering of the victim who turns to violence, judgment may give way to moral relativism or liberal tolerance, compassion to a pity that denies culpability. This is the point of departure in The Violence of Victimhood and the impetus for its call for renewed considerations of responsibility, judgment, compassion, and nonviolent politics.

To address her provocative questions, Diane Enns draws on an unusually wide-ranging cast of characters from the fields of feminism, philosophy, peacebuilding, political theory, and psychoanalysis. In the process, she makes an original contribution to each, enriching discussions that are otherwise constricted by disciplinary boundaries and an arid distinction between theory and practice.

“Diane Enns’s book The Violence of Victimhood will be read with admiration and a passionate interest by anyone who confronts the moral, philosophical, and political dilemmas of extreme violence in contemporary society: scholars, activists, citizens. Instead of simply naming the ambivalence of the category of victimhood, she wants to understand it in all its determinations, moral and historical. She confronts with great rigor an impressive corpus of interpretations, past and present, Western and postcolonial. She delineates a politics of life with no concession to wishful thinking. A most necessary, most timely book.”

—Etienne Balibar, University of California, Irvine