This article examines the effects of human rights and transitional justice on memories of Timor-Leste’s resistance to the Indonesian occupation, which lasted from 1975 to 1999. Data comes from ethnographic fieldwork in Timor, centered around remembrance of two major acts of resistance: an armed uprising in 1983 and a peaceful demonstration in 1991. The article argues that in Timor, an “apolitical” human rights has caused a post-conflict “democratization of perpetration”, in that similar culpability is assigned to all those who caused suffering in the conflict with Indonesia through physical violence, irrespective of context. Transitional justice has thus expanded the category of perpetrator in Timor, to include some who legally used armed resistance against Indonesian rule. Studies of violence have belatedly turned toward examining perpetrators of state terror; this article examines how discourses of human rights and transitional justice shape perceptions of those who resist state terror with violence.
Human Rights, Transitional Justice, and Memories of Resistance in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste
Jeffrey A. Sluka
The ethnography of state terror is “high risk” research and there are real personal dangers for anyone who conducts fieldwork on this issue. Managing such dangers has particularly become an issue for those conducting primary research with perpetrators of state terror—the “rank and file” who apply the electric cattle prods and pull the triggers—and all of the researchers I know who have taken this path have been threatened in one form or another. Th is article reviews the core literature and latest developments in managing the physical dangers inherent in the ethnography of political violence and state terror, particularly fieldwork or primary research with the actual perpetrators themselves, makes practical recommendations for managing such dangers, and presents some ideas for developing risk management plans or protocols for researcher survival in perilous field sites.
shrouded themselves in iron silence over who had actively or passively participated in the Holocaust: nothing seen, nothing heard, nothing known, nothing done. They acted as if the perpetrators had always been the ‘others’. These ‘others’ were the prominent
Local responses to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
Johanna Mannergren Selimovic
This article juxtaposes local understandings and narratives on justice and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina with those of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). By looking at notions of collective innocence/guilt, the development of victim identities, and the relativization of the suffering of the other, it explores the failure of the ICTY to offer a convincing model of transitional justice in Bosnia. Although the ICTY disciplines the boundary between victim and perpetrator through measures for shared truth and individual justice, local discourses resist or transform these representations, thus tending to entrench rather than transcend national divisions. The findings of this article challenge prevalent instrumentalist understandings of transitional justice and its role in facilitating reconciliation. The article focuses on the communities of Konjic and Srebrenica and the ICTY outreach conferences held in these towns in 2004 and 2005.
Finding Perpetrators and Switchboard Operators in Post-Authoritarian Argentina
Antonius C.G.M. Robben
In conducting fieldwork among perpetrators of state violence, it is a major methodological problem to gain access to competing factions within the research population. Ethnographers often succeed in finding access to at least one faction but this successful rapport might then immediately close off other factions that mistrust the ethnographer’s politics, intentions, or alleged sympathies. The ethnographic challenge is to find intermediaries or switchboard operators, as they are called in this article, who have established informal channels of communication between hostile factions. Switchboard operators have the following characteristics: discretion, neutrality, lack of formal power, disinterestedness, trustworthiness, and they act as a conduit of communication. This article describes how switchboard operators were located in Argentina, and how they played a crucial role in my fieldwork among a broad spectrum of military perpetrators who had terrorized the Argentine people between 1976 and 1983 with enforced disappearances and state repression.
Reflections on Auschwitz
Austrian-born Ruth Klüger was a teenager when she and her mother were deported first to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, then to Auschwitz, and later to Christianstadt. This article examines Klüger's memoir weiter leben in which she records her memories and assessments of her experience in these concentration camps. It considers her critical stance toward the postwar Holocaust memory culture and focuses on Klüger's relationship with German thought and language. In particular, during her imprisonment in Auschwitz, German poetry played an important role in her survival. This offers new insight into Theodor Adorno's statement (which he later retracted) that “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.“ As questions about German identity are raised, this article suggests a discourse about the Holocaust from within German culture and points to questions about the intricate relationship of a shared cultural background between victim and perpetrator.
Kathleen M. Blee
Interpretive and ethical frameworks circumscribe how we study the perpetrators of politically motivated violence against civilian populations. This article revisits the author’s studies of two eras of white supremacism in the United States, the 1920s and 1980s–1990s, to examine how these were affected by four frameworks of inquiry: the assumption of agency, the allure of the extraordinary, the tendency to categorical analysis, and the presumption of net benefit. It concludes with suggestions on how scholars can avoid the limitations of these frameworks.
Female Génocidaires in the Aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide
Since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the current government has arrested approximately 130,000 civilians who were suspected of criminal responsibility. An estimated 2,000 were women, a cohort that remains rarely researched through an ethnographic lens. This article begins to address this oversight by analyzing ethnographic encounters with 8 confessed or convicted female génocidaires from around Rwanda. These encounters reveal that female génocidaires believe they endure gender-based discrimination for having violated taboos that determine appropriate conduct for Rwandan women. However, only female génocidaires with minimal education, wealth, and social capital referenced this gender-based discrimination to minimize their crimes and assert claims of victimization. Conversely, female elites who helped incite the genocide framed their victimization in terms of political betrayal and victor’s justice. This difference is likely informed by the female elites’ participation in the political processes that made the genocide possible, as well as historical precedence for leniency where female elites are concerned.
From Silence to Knowledge and Back Again
. What I want to draw attention to here is the existence of another, very different set of riders, another group of people struggling to find the language in which to speak of what had occurred. I am referring here to the perpetrators of the Holocaust
Germans and Jews Re-enacting Aspects of the Holocaust
it does not remain a repressed and unthought experience prone to re-enactment later in life. It is precisely because the Holocaust was felt by many survivors and perpetrators to be inexpressible that it is transmitted to their children in an