Sociology and Beyond: Agency, Victimisation and the Ethics of Writing

In: Asian Journal of Social Science
Gudrun Dahl Stockholm University

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During the last decades, development discourse has taken a neo-liberal turn. Parallel to this, the discourse of social science has become more oriented to matters of individual agency. Within the sociological and anthropological literature on development, this emphasis on individual agency is often expressed in terms of an explicit statement taken by the author that s/he wishes to correct an earlier (ethically inferior) emphasis on structure that is assumed to imply that the concerned people are passive victims. Problematising this ethics of scientific writing, this paper will look at various discourses in which the concept of victimhood is used, seeing claims and disclaimers of victimhood as themselves being expressions of agency in a contestation over accountability, responsibility, recognition and possible indemnification or blame.

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