Navigating conflicting normative orders: when violence isn't violence

Marieke Hopman*, Tajra Smajić

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper presents our case study on the child’s right to be protected from all forms of violence in the Sahrawi refugee camps, near Tindouf, Algeria. After presenting our general findings and the different applicable social (legal and non-legal) norms, we argue that this study shows a new way to navigate conflicting norms of different normative orders. Namely: instead of choosing between conflicting norms/orders, Sahrawi adults reinterpret key concepts of norms, so that the different applicable norms can be aligned. In this case, they redefined the concepts of “childhood” and “violence”, so that it can be argued that the international legal right of their children to be protected from violence is fully complied with, while they are also aware of, and discuss, frequent fighting between children, as well as physical punishment (beating) of children by adult family members and teachers. The paper argues that this paradoxical position can be understood as an example of what Sartre calls “mauvaise foi”. In this case, the hiding of the factual self happens on the individual level, as well as on the collective level (the collective self of the Sahrawi people: our people do not use violence against children).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-57
Number of pages23
JournalLegal Pluralism and Critical Social Analysis
Issue number1
Early online date21 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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