Washington Center

Violence and Human Rights

Day and Time: 
Tuesdays, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Quarter Dates: 
September 24 to December 3, 2013
Quarter Elective
Seminar 314

This seminar explores 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 are violence, trauma, history, memory of traumatic histories shaped by different social, cultural and political contexts? What notions of 'the human' and human dignity are encoded in human rights discourses.

Taught by: Professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes, University of California, Berkeley

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