Victims as moral beacons of humanitarianism in post-conflict societies

John D Brewer, Bernadette C Hayes, Katrin Dudgeon, Natascha Mueller-Hirth, Francis Teeney, Shirley-Lal Wijesinghe

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4 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper reports on interview data with victims of conflict in three post-conflict societies. The data offer a special route into discussing the nature of modern humanitarianism. Victims are people who might be expected to find humanitarian sensibilities difficult to practise as a result of their experience of the worst levels of atrocity; yet many are more capable than most to be moral beacons in their practice of humanitarian virtues. The forms of atrocity victims experience in modern warfare are deeply moral but it is not an over-arching framework of moral values that turns many victims into moral beacons. If it were, the moral landscape of post-conflict societies would be more uniformly humanitarian and compassionate. The research question which motivates this paper is therefore how best we can understand the source of the humanitarian virtues many victims display after conflict. We argue that the priority placed by some victims on justice, human dignity and emotional empathy for all victims after conflict constructs humanitarianism as a social process, such that, where it is found, it resides in the social practices of victims themselves rather than an over-arching moral framework of humanitarian sensibility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-47
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Social Science Journal
Issue number215-216
Early online date27 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Leverhulme Trust. Grant Number: F/00 152/AK


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  • Intra-State Conflict

    John David Brewer (Coordinator) & Bernadette Hayes (Coordinator)

    Impact: Societal

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