Truth, Memory, and Representation


The Cultures and Practices of Violence

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Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 19 b&w photographs, 1 table Published: April 2009

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, History > World History, Law > Human Rights

What happens to people and the societies in which they live after genocide? How are the devastating events remembered on the individual and collective levels, and how do these memories intersect and diverge as the rulers of postgenocidal states attempt to produce a monolithic “truth” about the past? In this important volume, leading anthropologists consider such questions about the relationship of genocide, truth, memory, and representation in the Balkans, East Timor, Germany, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, and other locales.

Specialists on the societies about which they write, these anthropologists draw on ethnographic research to provide on-the-ground analyses of communities in the wake of mass brutality. They investigate how mass violence is described or remembered, and how those representations are altered by the attempts of others, from NGOs to governments, to assert “the truth” about outbreaks of violence. One contributor questions the neutrality of an international group monitoring violence in Sudan and the assumption that such groups are, at worst, benign. Another examines the consequences of how events, victims, and perpetrators are portrayed by the Rwandan government during the annual commemoration of that country’s genocide in 1994. Still another explores the silence around the deaths of between eighty and one hundred thousand people on Bali during Indonesia’s state-sponsored anticommunist violence of 1965–1966, a genocidal period that until recently was rarely referenced in tourist guidebooks, anthropological studies on Bali, or even among the Balinese themselves. Other contributors consider issues of political identity and legitimacy, coping, the media, and “ethnic cleansing.” Genocide: Truth, Memory, and Representation reveals the major contribution that cultural anthropologists can make to the study of genocide.

Contributors. Pamela Ballinger, Jennie E. Burnet, Conerly Casey, Elizabeth Drexler, Leslie Dwyer, Alexander Laban Hinton, Sharon E. Hutchinson, Uli Linke, Kevin Lewis O’Neill, Antonius C. G. M. Robben, Debra Rodman, Victoria Sanford


“Many of the essays are well done and provide an insight into the issues surrounding a post-genocide society. Through their use of primary interviews, each essay gives the reader an acute sense of the pain, confusion and destruction that genocides leave behind in both the short and long run. The book is best targeted at graduate students and scholars in the fields of Political Science and Anthropology. The essays in the book could serve as a model for effective fieldwork for students and younger academics.” — Michael Johns, International Studies Review

Genocide: Truth, Memory and Representation includes case studies and analyses about individuals worldwide who continue to live in communities and cope in their everyday lives with the aftermath of genocide and other mass violence. And, for the anthropologists who arrive at these places, this volume reveals their difficulties of trying to hear testimony and analyze past and present truths and memories. The essays reveal how complicated, risky but much needed such undertakings are.” — Joyce Apsel, Human Rights Review

“A timely and relevant collection of essays interrogating genocide’s relationship to the Truth/Memory/Representation triumvirate, this anthology weaves together new and old themes in Genocide Studies while paying attention to underserved genocidal incidents and offering new insights on well-covered events. This makes it a worthy read for an audience with a wide-range of backgrounds and interests.” — Christina M. Morus, Journal for Peace and Justice Studies

“Overall, this book is a useful and equally fascinating read for scholars and students of genocide studies, as well as for those who are otherwise interested in the subject matter. The coherent organization of the chapters, including cross-references between essays, makes it a strong and concise contribution.” — Maria Irchenhauser, H-Net Reviews

“This is an extraordinary book, anthropology at its best, drawing on the extreme to enlighten more common features of memory, representation, and the variability of truth. . . . This well-constructed book will be of interest to many, especially to all social anthropologists who try to grasp the complex intertwining of imagination, action, and comprehension and their individual and societal nexus that the last chapter hints at. Theoretical distance may help them cope with, at times, painful or troubling empathy.” — Danielle de Lame, American Ethnologist

“While the volume intends to make a special contribution to anthropology, a wide range of readers will find it fascinating and insightful, including this political scientist.” — Elisabeth King,, Human Rights & Human Welfare

Genocide: Truth, Memory, and Representation brings the scholarship on genocide to a new level. The editors have assembled a superb group of anthropologists who demonstrate that innovative research and deep, probing questions can also be accompanied by great empathy for victims. Every chapter inspires a rethinking of received categories without ever losing sight of the immense, tragic dimension of genocide.” — Eric D. Weitz, author of A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation

“This volume brings rich historical and contemporary ethnographic material to bear on the urgent task of writing against violence and terror. The volume benefits greatly from the long-term professional commitments of anthropologists working in settings embroiled in violence and engaging with peoples suffering the ongoing sequelae and cycles of genocidal terror.” — Philippe Bourgois, author of In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio and co-editor of Violence in War and Peace


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Alexander Laban Hinton is Director of the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights and Associate Professor of Anthropology and Global Affairs at Rutgers University, Newark. He is the author of Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide and editor of Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide.

Kevin Lewis O’Neill is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Genocide, Truth, Memory, and Representation: An Introduction / Kevin Lewis O'Neill and Alexander Laban Hinton 1

Part 1. Truth/Memory/Representation

1. What Is an Anthropology of Genocide? Reflections on Field Research with Maya Survivors in Guatemala / Victoria Sanford 29

2. Perverse Outcomes: International Monitoring and the Perpetuation of Violence in Sudan / Sharon E. Hutchinson 54

3. Whose Genocide? Whose Truth? Representations of Victim and Perpetrator in Rwanda / Jennie E. Burnet 80

Part 2. Truth/Memory/Representation

4. A Politics of Silences: Violence, Memory, and Treacherous Speech in Post-1965 Bali / Leslie Dwyer 113

5. The Limits of Empathy: Emotional Anesthesia and the Museum of Corpses in Post-Holocaust Germany / Uli Linke 147

6. Forgotten Guatemala: Genocide, Truth, and Denial in Guatemala's Oriente / Debra Rodman 193

Part 3. Truth/Memory/Representation

7. Addressing the Legacies of Mass Violence and Genocide in Indonesia and East Timor: Truth, Memory, and Corruption / Elizabeth Drexler 219

8. Mediated Hostility: Media, Affective Citizenship, and Genocide in Northern Nigeria / Conerly Casey 247

9. Cleansed of Experience? Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing, and the Challenges of Anthropological Representation / Pamela Ballinger 279

Epilogue: The Imagination of Genocide / Antonius C. G. M. Robben 317

Contributors 333

Index 339
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4405-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4388-2
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