University of Wisconsin Press

Critical Human Rights

Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, Series Editors

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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Critical Human Rights

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Archiving the Unspeakable

Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia

Michelle Caswell

Roughly 1.7 million people died in Cambodia from untreated disease, starvation, and execution during the Khmer Rouge reign of less than four years in the late 1970s. The regime’s brutality has come to be symbolized by the multitude of black-and-white mug shots of prisoners taken at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, where thousands of “enemies of the state” were tortured before being sent to the Killing Fields. In Archiving the Unspeakable, Michelle Caswell traces the social life of these photographic records through the lens of archival studies and elucidates how, paradoxically, they have become agents of silence and witnessing, human rights and injustice as they are deployed at various moments in time and space. From their creation as Khmer Rouge administrative records to their transformation beginning in 1979 into museum displays, archival collections, and databases, the mug shots are key components in an ongoing drama of unimaginable human suffering.

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Beyond Displacement

Campesinos, Refugees, and Collective Action in the Salvadoran Civil War

Molly Todd

During the civil war that wracked El Salvador from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, the Salvadoran military tried to stamp out dissidence and insurgency through an aggressive campaign of crop-burning, kidnapping, rape, killing, torture, and gruesome bodily mutilations. Even as human rights violations drew world attention, repression and war displaced more than a quarter of El Salvador’s population, both inside the country and beyond its borders. Beyond Displacement examines how the peasant campesinos of war-torn northern El Salvador responded to violence by taking to the hills. Molly Todd demonstrates that their flight was not hasty and chaotic, but was a deliberate strategy that grew out of a longer history of collective organization, mobilization, and self-defense.

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Court of Remorse

Inside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Thierry Cruvellier

When genocidal violence gripped Rwanda in 1994, the international community recoiled, hastily withdrawing its peacekeepers. Late that year, in an effort to redeem itself, the United Nations Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to seek accountability for some of the worst atrocities since World War II: the genocide suffered by the Tutsi and crimes against humanity suffered by the Hutu. But faced with competing claims, the prosecution focused exclusively on the crimes of Hutu extremists. No charges would be brought against the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, which ultimately won control of the country. The UN, as if racked by guilt for its past inaction, gave in to pressure by Rwanda’s new leadership. With the Hutu effectively silenced, and the RPF constantly reminding the international community of its failure to protect the Tutsi during the war, the Tribunal pursued an unusual form of one-sided justice, born out of contrition.  
    Fascinated by the Tribunal’s rich complexities, journalist Thierry Cruvellier came back day after day to watch the proceedings, spending more time there than any other outside observer. Gradually he gained the confidence of the victims, defendants, lawyers, and judges. Drawing on interviews with these protagonists and his close observations of their interactions, Cruvellier takes readers inside the courtroom to witness the motivations, mechanisms, and manipulations of justice as it unfolded on the stage of high-stakes, global politics. It is this ground-level view that makes his account so valuable—and so absorbing. A must-read for those who want to understand the dynamics of international criminal tribunals, Court of Remorse reveals both the possibilities and the challenges of prosecuting human rights violations.

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From War to Genocide

Criminal Politics in Rwanda, 1990–1994

André Guichaoua, Translated by Don E. Webster, Foreword by Scott Straus

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How Difficult It Is to Be God

Shining Path’s Politics of War in Peru, 1980–1999

Carlos Iván Degregori; Edited and with an introduction by Steve J. Stern; Translated by Nancy Appelbaum, Joanna Drzewieniecki, Héctor Flores, Eric Hershberg, Judy Rein, Steve J. Stern, and Kimberly Theidon

The revolutionary war launched by Shining Path, a Maoist insurgency, was the most violent upheaval in modern Peru’s history, claiming some 70,000 lives in the 1980s–1990s and drawing widespread international attention. Yet for many observers, Shining Path’s initial successes were a mystery. What explained its cult-like appeal, and what actually happened inside the Andean communities at war?
    In How Difficult It Is to Be God, Carlos Iván Degregori—the world’s leading expert on Shining Path and the intellectual architect for Peru’s highly regarded Truth and Reconciliation Commission—elucidates the movement’s dynamics. An anthropologist who witnessed Shining Path’s recruitment of militants in the 1970s, Degregori grounds his findings in deep research and fieldwork. He explains not only the ideology and culture of revolution among the insurgents, but also their capacity to extend their influence to university youths, Indian communities, and competing social and political movements.
    Making Degregori’s most important work available to English-language readers for the first time, this translation includes a new introduction by historian Steve J. Stern, who analyzes the author’s achievement, why it matters, and the debates it sparked. For anyone interested in Peru and Latin America’s age of “dirty war,” or in the comparative study of revolutions, Maoism, and human rights, this book will provide arresting new insights.

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Human Rights and Transnational Solidarity in Cold War Latin America

Edited by Jessica Stites Mor

With the end of the global Cold War, the struggle for human rights has emerged as one of the most controversial forces of change in Latin America. Many observers seek the foundations of that movement in notions of rights and models of democratic institutions that originated in the global North. Challenging that view, this volume argues that Latin American community organizers, intellectuals, novelists, priests, students, artists, urban pobladores, refugees, migrants, and common people have contributed significantly to new visions of political community and participatory democracy. These local actors built an alternative transnational solidarity from below with significant participation of the socially excluded and activists in the global South.
    Edited by Jessica Stites Mor, this book offers fine-grained case studies that show how Latin America’s re-emerging Left transformed the struggles against dictatorship and repression of the Cold War into the language of anti-colonialism, socioeconomic rights, and identity.

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The Human Rights Paradox

Universality and Its Discontents

Edited by Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus

Human rights are paradoxical. Advocates across the world invoke the idea that such rights belong to all people, no matter who or where they are. But since humans can only realize their rights in particular places, human rights are both always and never universal.
            The Human Rights Paradox is the first book to fully embrace this contradiction and reframe human rights as history, contemporary social advocacy, and future prospect. In case studies that span Africa, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, and the United States, contributors carefully illuminate how social actors create the imperative of human rights through relationships whose entanglements of the global and the local are so profound that one cannot exist apart from the other. These chapters provocatively analyze emerging twenty-first-century horizons of human rights—on one hand, the simultaneous promise and peril of global rights activism through social media, and on the other, the force of intergenerational rights linked to environmental concerns that are both local and global. Taken together, they demonstrate how local struggles and realities transform classic human rights concepts, including “victim,” “truth,” and “justice.”
            Edited by Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, The Human Rights Paradox enables us to consider the consequences—for history, social analysis, politics, and advocacy—of understanding that human rights belong both to “humanity” as abstraction as well as to specific people rooted in particular locales.

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Innocence and Victimhood

Gender, Nation, and Women’s Activism in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina

Elissa Helms

The 1992–95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina following the dissolution of socialist Yugoslavia became notorious for “ethnic cleansing” and mass rapes targeting the Bosniac (Bosnian Muslim) population. Postwar social and political processes have continued to be dominated by competing nationalisms representing Bosniacs, Serbs, and Croats, as well as those supporting a multiethnic Bosnian state, in which narratives of victimhood take center stage, often in gendered form. Elissa Helms shows that in the aftermath of the war, initiatives by and for Bosnian women perpetuated and complicated dominant images of women as victims and peacemakers in a conflict and political system led by men. In a sober corrective to such accounts, she offers a critical look at the politics of women’s activism and gendered nationalism in a postwar and postsocialist society.

            Drawing on ethnographic research spanning fifteen years, Innocence and Victimhood demonstrates how women’s activists and NGOs responded to, challenged, and often reinforced essentialist images in affirmative ways, utilizing the moral purity associated with the position of victimhood to bolster social claims, shape political visions, pursue foreign funding, and wage campaigns for postwar justice. Deeply sensitive to the suffering at the heart of Bosnian women’s (and men’s) wartime experiences, this book also reveals the limitations to strategies that emphasize innocence and victimhood.

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Inside Rwanda's Gacaca Courts

Seeking Justice after Genocide

Bert Ingelaere

After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, victims, perpetrators, and the country as a whole struggled to deal with the legacy of the mass violence. The government responded by creating a new version of a traditional grassroots justice system called gacaca. Bert Ingelaere, based on his observation of two thousand gacaca trials, offers a comprehensive assessment of what these courts set out to do, how they worked, what they achieved, what they did not achieve, and how they affected Rwandan society.
            Weaving together vivid firsthand recollections, interviews, and trial testimony with systematic analysis, Ingelaere documents how the gacaca shifted over time from confession to accusation, from restoration to retribution. He precisely articulates the importance of popular conceptions of what is true and just. Marked by methodological sophistication, extraordinary evidence, and deep knowledge of Rwanda, this is an authoritative, nuanced, and bittersweet account of one of the most important experiments in transitional justice after mass violence.

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Memory’s Turn

Reckoning with Dictatorship in Brazil

Rebecca J. Atencio

After twenty-one years of military dictatorship, Brazil returned to democratic rule in 1985. Yet over the following two decades, the country largely ignored human rights crimes committed by state security agents, crimes that included the torture, murder, and disappearance of those who opposed the authoritarian regime.
            In clear and engaging prose, Rebecca J. Atencio tells the story of the slow turn to memory in Brazil, a turn that has taken place in both politics and in cultural production. She shows how testimonial literature, telenovelas, literary novels, theatrical plays, and memorials have interacted with policies adopted by the Brazilian state, often in unexpected ways. Under the right circumstances, official and cultural forms of reckoning combine in Brazil to produce what Atencio calls cycles of cultural memory. Novel meanings of the past are forged, and new cultural works are inspired, thus creating the possibility for further turns in the cycle.
            The first book to analyze Brazil’s reckoning with dictatorship through both institutional and cultural means, Memory’s Turn is a rich, informative exploration of the interplay between these different modes of memory reconstruction.

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