Research event

Hierarchies of victimhood in war-to-peace transition: Gendered innocence and perceptions of deservingness for justice and reparations

Milli Lake, Associate Professor of International Security at the London School of Economics, presents her research on gendered constructions of innocence in post-war accountability efforts in Colombia and Nepal.

In the aftermath of war, scholars and activists have understood justice and repair to be central for ensuring sustainable transitions to peace. Yet, new rights and remedies – including post-war compensation, criminal prosecutions, and truth and reconciliation commissions – can also create divisions between different groups of victims. With some exceptions, the literature on postwar accountability efforts has tended to treat those who suffered violence as a homogenous group, differentiated only by the type of violence they experience. Yet, in fact, various hierarchies emerge among forms of suffering considered worthy of repair. In this article we leverage micro-level data from a nationally representative sample in Colombia and Nepal, a conjoint survey experiment, and qualitative interview data, to unpack two overarching questions. First, we ask how hierarchies of deservingness shape attitudes towards reparations after war by assessing how ordinary people privilege different attributes of victimization. Second, we examine how respondents’ own conflict positionalities shape those attitudes. Among a nationally representative sample, we find evidence that gendered hierarchies persist in attitudes towards deservingness. Women and younger victims are considered more deserving of reparations than men regardless of the type of violence, and sexual violence emerges as a priority. Together, these findings reveal the continued salience of what we term gendered constructions of innocence. Cutting sharply against expectations generated from existing work, however, we found no evidence that respondents’ own conflict positionalities shape attitudes towards deservingness, suggesting that conflict cleavages do not dominate postwar politics in Colombia and Nepal in the ways we might expect.

This event is part of the International Security Research Colloquium hosted by the Centre for International Security. The event is organised in the framework of CIVICA – The European University of Social Sciences. The CIVICA alliance brings together ten leading European higher education institutions in the social sciences. The alliance's mission is to create an inter-university campus for collaborative teaching, research, and innovative learning, while fostering academic excellence and global civic engagement. CIVICA was selected by the European Commission as one of the pilot European Universities in 2019 and confirmed as a successful alliance in 2022 for its full roll-out under the Erasmus+ programme. Read more on



    Milli Lake is an Associate Professor of International Security at the London School of Economics' Department of International Relations. She completed her doctorate in Political Science at the University of Washington in 2014, and her expertise lies in political violence, institutions, law, poverty, and gender. She co-directs the Women's Rights After War project, a project which evaluates the lived realities of post-war gender reforms efforts as they are experienced by women from different class, ethnic, racial, religious, or other backgrounds. Dr Lake also co-convenes the Advancing Research on Conflict consortium, which runs a summer field methods program for doctoral students preparing to embark on field research in volatile or conflict-affected research sites. Her research is published in the American Political Science ReviewInternational Organization, International Studies Quarterly, World Development, Law and Society Review, the Annual Review of Political Science, the Annual Review of Law and Social Science, and Gender & Society, among other outlets. Her 2018 book Strong NGOs and Weak States: Pursuing Gender Justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa was published by Cambridge University Press. Dr Lake has worked as a consultant with organisations including USAID, The World Bank, Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, Berkeley School of Law and the International Law and Policy Institute. She regularly provides expert testimony in asylum cases and has written extensively on the ethics and practicalities of field research in violence-affected settings.

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