Readings and Films


The following books are required reading for this course. These, along with other readings, are shown in the table below.

[A] = Aretxaga, Begoña. Shattering Silence: Women, Nationalism, and Political Subjectivity in Northern Ireland. Princeton University Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780691037547.

[AJ] = Améry, Jean. At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities. Indiana University Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780253211736.

[AR] = Arditti, Rita. Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina. University of California Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780520215702. [Preview with Google Books]

[G] = Gobodo-Madikizela, Pumla. A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid. Mariner Books, 2004. ISBN: 9780618446599. [Preview with Google Books]

[GP] = Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. Picador, 1999. ISBN: 9780312243357. [Preview with Google Books]

[H] = Hopgood, Stephen. Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International. Cornell University Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780801472510. [Preview with Google Books]

[J] = James, Erica Caple. Democratic Insecurities: Violence, Trauma, and Intervention in Haiti. University of California Press, 2010. ISBN: 9780520260542. [Preview with Google Books]

[W] = Weizman, Eyal. The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza. Verso, 2012. ISBN: 9781844676477. [Preview with Google Books]

Part One: Theories of Violence and the Problem of Rationality
1 Course Introduction No readings assigned
2 Theoretical Foundations: Crowds, Ritual, or Demonic Males?

Tambiah, Stanley J. "Entering a Dark Continent: The Political Psychology of Crowds." Chapter 10 in Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia. University of California Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780520206427.

Girard, René. "Generative Scapegoating." Chapter 1 in Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation. Stanford University Press, 1988. ISBN: 9780804715188.

Freud, Sigmund. "Why War?" In Aggression, Hostility, and Violence: Nature or Nurture? Edited by Terry Maple and Douglas W. Matheson. Holt McDougal, 1973. ISBN: 9780030853067.

Manson, Joseph H., and Richard W. Wrangham. "Intergroup Aggression in Chimpanzees and Humans." Current Anthropology 32, no. 4. (1991): 369–90.

3 Understanding the Unthinkable: The Holocaust

[AJ] Chapter 1: At the Mind's Limits.

[AJ] Chapter 2: Torture.

[AJ] Chapter 4: Resentments.

[AJ] Chapter 5: On the Necessity and Impossibility of Being A Jew.

Arendt, Hannah. "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil." Chapter 5 in Genocide: An Anthropological Reader. Edited by Alexander Laban Hinton. Wiley-Blackwell, 2002. ISBN: 9780631223559.

Part Two: Human Rights, Rationality, and Relativism Post WWII
4 Rights Talk in Western Culture: Whose Rights, Whose Rationality?

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights," United Nations.

Patterson, Orlando. "Freedom, Slavery, and the Modern Construction of Rights." Chapter 5 in Historical Change & Human Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1994. Edited by Olwen Hufton. Basic Books, 1995. ISBN: 9780465030767.

Donnelly, Jack. "The Social Construction of International Human Rights." Chapter 2 in Human Rights in Global Politics. Edited by Tim Dunne and Nicholas J. Wheeler. Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780521646437. [Preview with Google Books]

———. "Human Rights and Western Liberalism." Chapter 5 in Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. Cornell University Press, 1989.

Optional Reference Material

"International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights," United Nations Human Rights.

"International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," United Nations Human Rights.

5 Universalism versus Cultural Relativism

Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association. "Statement on Human Rights." American Anthropologist 49, no. 4 (1947): 539–43.

"Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights," American Anthropological Association.

An-Na'im, Abdullahi Ahmed. "Toward a Cross-Cultural Approach to Defining International Standards of Human Rights: The Meaning of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment." Chapter 1 in Human Rights in Cross-Cultural Perspectives: A Quest for Consensus. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995. ISBN: 9780812215687. [Preview with Google Books]

Walley, Christine J. "Searching for 'Voices': Feminism, Anthropology, and the Global Debate over Female Genital Operations." Cultural Anthropology 12, no. 3 (1997): 405–38.

Mutua, Makau W. "Savages, Victims, and Saviors: The Metaphor of Human Rights." Harvard International Law Journal 42, no. 1 (2001): 201–45.

Part Three: The Practice of Human Rights
6 The Birth of Amnesty International

[H] Preface and acknowledgments.

[H] Chapter 1: Between Two Worlds.

[H] Chapter 2: Shadows and Doors.

[H] Chapter 3: Lighting The Candle.

[H] Chapter 4: Telling the Truth About Suffering.

[H] Chapter 6: Being and Doing.

[H] Chapter 8: Amnesty in Practice.


[H] Chapter 7: The Inheritors.

7 Sex and Gender Violence in Ireland

[A] Chapter 1: Opening the Space of Intepretation.

[A] Chapter 2: Catholic West Belfast: A Sense of Place.

[A] Chapter 4: The Ritual Politics of Historical Legitimacy.

[A] Chapter 5: The Gendered Politics of Suffering: Women of the RAC.

[A] Chapter 7: En-Gendering a Nation.

[A] Afterword.

"Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women," UN Women, United Nations.

8 Argentina

[AR] Introduction.

[AR] Chapter 1: Not Just One More Coup.

[AR] Chapter 3: The Grandmothers Organize.

[AR] Chapter 4: From Terror to Resistance.

[AR] Chapter 6: Captive Minds, Captive Lives.

[AR] Chapter 7: A New Strategy: The Right to Identity.

[AR] Chapter 8: The Politics of Memory.

[AR] Afterword.


[AR] Chapter 2: The Fall of the Regime.

[AR] Chapter 5: Finding the Children.

9 Rwanda [GP]
10 Palestine [W]
11 South Africa [G]
12 Haiti, Part 1

[J] Introduction: Democracy, Insecurity, and the Commodification of Suffering.

[J] Chapter 1: The Terror Apparatus.

[J] Chapter 2: The Aid Apparatus and the Politics of Victimization.

[J] Chapter 3: Routines of Rupture and Spaces of (In)Security.

13 Haiti, Part 2 and Course Conclusion

[J] Chapter 4: Double Binds in Audit Cultures.

[J] Chapter 5: Bureaucraft, Accusations, and the Social Life of Aid.

[J] Chapter 6: Sovereign Rule, Ensekirite, and Death.

[J] Chapter 7: The Tyranny of the Gift.


The following films were required viewing for this course.

Las madres de la Plaza De Mayo. Directed by Susanna Blaustein Muñoz and Lourdes Portillo. Color, 64 min. 1985.

Long Night's Journey into Day: South Africa's Search for Truth & Reconciliation. Directed by Deborah Hoffman and Frances Reid. Color, 94 min. 2000.

My Neighbor, My Killer. Directed by Anne Aghion. Color, 80 min. 2009.

Pote Mak Sonje: The Raboteau Trial. Directed by Harriet Hirshorn and Christine Cynn. Work in progress.

The Specialist. Directed by Eyal Sivan. Black & White, 128 min. 1999.