Naming and Blaming in the Post-Conflict Bureaucratic State: The Case of Colombia's Victim Registry

Kristin Foringer, University of Michigan

The 2011 Victims' Law represented a shift in the way the Colombian government produced recognition and reparations for victims of the civil conflict. Rather than relying upon a truth commission or court depositions to allocate victim status, the Law created a new bureaucratic entity—the Registro Único de Víctimas, or Single Victims Registry—to adjudicate among formal complaints of victimization and ultimately construct consensus about the number and quality of conflict victims (and, inversely, their victimizers). This paper argues that state officials mobilized values of objectivity and efficiency stemming from international human rights discourse to justify the Registro's creation and to govern its implementation yet ultimately employed these values in service of national meaning making and to advance pre-existing ideological projects that distanced state actors from implication in the committed acts of violence. The paper draws from archival evidence to analyze the discourse deployed in congressional debates leading up to the Registro's creation and to situate administrative texts within broader projects of meaning making. The paper bridges culturalist theories of human rights with literature on classification and the symbolic state to demonstrate the salience of bureaucratic category production in contested post-conflict contexts.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 191. How to Count Criminals: Methods of Evaluation and Categorization