Being seen like a state: transitional justice bureaucrats and victimhood in Colombia

Roxani Krystalli*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on the experiences of a particular group of transitional justice professionals in Colombia: bureaucrats within Colombian state agencies who had either experienced harm in the context of the armed conflict that rendered them eligible for official recognition as victims or previously worked for activist groups and social justice nongovernmental organizations advocating on behalf of those recognized as victims. How do these bureaucrats trouble imaginations of victimhood, statehood, and the relationship between the two during transitions from violence? Drawing from ethnographic observation of transitional justice programs in Colombia and from interviews with the professionals who implemented them, I argue that these professionals illuminate contrasting notions of moral and bureaucratic authority in the transitional justice enterprise. This analysis theoretically and empirically contributes to an understanding of not only how bureaucracy shapes victimhood during transitions from violence but also how victimhood shapes bureaucrats. It also informs theoretical conceptualizations of embodying the state, as well as ethical and methodological debates on researching the legacies and effects of transitional justice mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-146
Number of pages19
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number2
Early online date3 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2023


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