Washington Center

Violence and Human Rights in War and Peace: A Holistic and Interdisciplinary Perspective

Day and Time: 
Tuesdays, 6 to 9 p.m.
Semester Dates: 
August 27 to December 6, 2013
Semester Elective

We will explore violence as a continuum that includes both legitimate and illegitimate, recognized and unrecognized, visible and invisible, normative and deviant, political and private, physical and psychological, structural and symbolic violence. We will juxtapose the routine, the ordinary – the normative violence of everyday life against sudden eruptions of unexpected, extraordinary, or gratuitous violence (as in genocide, state terror, dirty wars, terrorism, rough justice, guerrilla warfare, and civil wars).  We will look at the continuities between political and criminal violence, state violence and 'communal' violence, between structural violence and domestic violence.  The approach is interdisciplinary drawing on anthropological, ethnographic, historical, literary, documentary, philosophical readings on violence, genocide, torture, gendered violence, human trafficking. We will discuss trauma and memory at the level of individuals and communities and discuss transitional and redistributive justice, the benefits and risks of  humanitarian interventions, forms of  'witnessing', representing, and responding to violence and genocide.  Finally, we will look at the emergence of human rights discourses in response to violence and their extension to new populations and problems and the creation of new rights, including medical and cultural rights, rights of asylum, and notions of global, cultural and medical citizenship.   What are the effects of the applications of human rights to medicine, psychiatry, to expanded notions of citizenship , especially in the fraught context of new nation building  following civil wars and political violence.  How do conceptions of violence, trauma, history and memory as well as responses to traumatic histories and transitional justice (truth commissions) and human rights vary with respect to different social, cultural and political  contexts?  What notions of 'the human' and human dignity are encoded in human rights discourses. 

Professor Nancy Sheper-Hughes

Course Syllabus

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