Anthropological Theory

Civil victimhood: Citizenship, human rights and securitization in post-dictatorship Chile


Helene Risør


Based on two cases from Santiago, the article develops a theory of ‘civil victimhood’ to explore how civil conduct is paired with notions of victimhood in performances of citizenship in situations such as post-dictatorship Chile. In this context, victimhood is informed by two discourses, namely human rights and securitization. While the human rights discourse works to situate evil in the dictatorial past and victims as forgiving and deserving citizens, securitization practices operate within a temporality of the potential and generate new forms of othering and exclusion. This understanding of the civil citizen as (potential) victim delineates the forms of social and political action that are seen to have a legitimate place in public life. It is argued that the combination of civil victimhood and securitization is emerging as a form of governance that serves to exclude many of the poor from the full benefits of citizenship.