“Mundo(s) de víctimas” Program
The “Mundo(s) de víctimas” (or World(s) of Victims) program seeks to build a strong line of research by looking at different social situations and applying an analytically precise and humanely sensitive approach to an enormously complex issue: human pain. Toward that aim, the program brings together collective and individual research projects that address the more intense or more widespread manifestations of human pain: the victim, the disappeared, the refugee, the hopeless, the subaltern. In short, the sufferer. The collective project conducted from 2012 to 2015 (Mundo(s) de víctimas) looked at the Spanish case with an objective that required and still requires a major research effort, namely de-naturalizing a social figure such as the victim, which entailed contextualizing something that in Spain had become enormously crystallized, and also putting under the lens of the academic the various dispositifs, characters, and efforts that have been involved and are still involved in the thematization, treatment, and management of the social worlds that have been constructed around that figure over the past two decades. The collective project on disappearance that began in 2016 and will continue until 2019 (Desapariciones) is more ambitious: it covers a broader geographical area (Colombia, Mexico, Spain, and Portugal) and a much larger number of cases, and it is also more theoretically and methodologically demanding. The disappeared and disappearance are proposed as a concept with which to think about situations of pain and suffering; the methodological work is multi-situated and crosscutting, highly collaborative in terms of disciplines and with a strong international and comparative focus.
Desapariciones. A transnational study of a category for managing, inhabiting, and analyzing social catastrophe and loss (CSO 2015-66318-P) is funded for the years 2016 to 2019 under the call for “projects of excellence” of the General Board of Scientific and Technical Research of the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (MINECO). It seeks to understand how the category of the disappeared circulates transnationally and contributes to manage, inhabit, and analyze different situations marked by catastrophe and loss. This effort is conducted in two directions. On the one hand, the aim is to understand the logic of the category’s transnational circulation and its current widespread use for both managing and inhabiting situations of suffering, including some that are very different from those described under the legal category of “enforced disappearance of persons” after the adoption of the UN Convention in 2006. On the other, Desapariciones will seek to implement strategies for analyzing social life when it is pierced by catastrophe and loss and when the explanatory capacity of the tools inherited for comprehending and managing identity, agency, and meaning are exhausted. The objective of the research team here is to turn the category of disappeared into a tool for theoretical and methodological analysis of universes marked by intense processes of de-structuring, de-institutionalizing, and, in general, rupturing of meaning.
Desapariciones is a project with a comparative, multidisciplinary (including sociology, anthropology, philology, political science, law, and social psychology researchers), and multi-situated focus. Its strategy for approaching the field rests on qualitative research techniques with which it will address different cases, among them disappeared persons in Colombia, undocumented people in Mexico, stolen babies in Spain, seasonal workers in Spain, the Schengen frontier, human trafficking in Spain…
“Mundo(s) de víctimas” Project
Mundo(s) de víctimas. “Victim” construction process and dispositifs in contemporary Spain. Study of four paradigmatic cases (CSO2011-22451) was a project financed by the Ministry of Science and Innovation under the National R+D+I Plan for the years 2012 to 2015. The project was physically based in the Center for Studies on Collective Identity (Department of Sociology 2, University of the Basque Country), and involved researchers from the University of Vigo, the Autonomous University of Madrid, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the University of Coimbra’s CES, and Sciences-Po CERI.
The project addressed the processes of construction of identity associated with the figure of the victim in contemporary social life, focusing on the Spanish case. This figure has become central in recent years, occupying increasingly relevant spaces in social life and on political, legal, legislative, and media agendas. Normally moved by the individual or collective drama behind each case, scientific work has sought to mitigate the seriousness of situations that are, in many ways, on the edge of what is humanly bearable. However, victims of terrorism, of gender violence, of the Spanish Civil War, of Spain’s March 11, 2004 train bombings (11-M), of the Yak-42 and other plane accidents, of Francoist repression, of the crisis, of a flood… all have a common denominator: the very category of victim whose expansion alone touches structural issues (human rights, the idea of citizenship, the concept of subjects at their most vulnerable and extreme, the political management of it all), that merit analysis, as well as the concrete life worlds that have formed around them.
The project worked on four case studies: political victims (ETA, 11-M, Francoism, and police violence); victims of gender violence; victims of traffic accidents; and victims who are currently demanding inclusion in the category (stolen babies and victims of the Valencia metro accident). The study was approached through the analysis of two dimensions: the dispositifs and agents that contribute first to the birth of this figure and later to its management; and the forms of identity and sociality, the life worlds of the victims.