One of the most often reported but understudied phenomenon in post-conflict states is that of revenge violence. While such violence is widely acknowledged to occur after wars, it is often dismissed as epiphenomenal to the central problem of restoring order and good governance in the state. This paper seeks to refocus attention on this phenomenon and challenge the way that it is normally portrayed as a normal, almost incidental consequence of armed conflict. It develops an ideal-type distinction between revenge violence and its strategic mirror, reprisal violence. While revenge violence is premised on a judgement of individual responsibility for a prior act of harm, reprisal violence is driven by an assumption of collective guilt. This paper argues that these two types of violent activity-one expressive and the other strategic-are often intermixed in post-conflict states. Moreover, the interplay between them provides political cover for those who would employ violence to achieve strategic or political goals, while lowering the risks involved when doing so by attributing it to revenge for wartime atrocities. In effect, the fact that revenge and reprisal violence are mirror images of one another can serve to explain and subtly justify the use of organised violence against disadvantaged groups in post-conflict states. This paper examines the validity of this heuristic distinction through a within-case analysis of violence in Kosovo from 1999 to 2001 and identifies the policy consequences of this distinction.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations