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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/b4zd-cq88


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Legacies of Truth and Violence


human rights



Truth has emerged as an important space of accounting for past violence and grappling with ongoing crisis and trauma. In the wake of state terror, torture, disappearances, and genocide, communities have turned to truth as a grassroots response and challenge to political violence, through practices of memory and advocacy for justice that resist the erasure of their experience. States have also engaged truth as a form of transitional justice, using truth commissions and other modalities of truth in the wake of human rights abuses and state terror. Yet, while truth has become critical to rebuilding civil society and democracy, it also represents a particular form of accounting, often existing in a constitutive tension with justice and the inherently contested nature of memory. This roundtable explores this plural and fractured nature of truth(s) relation to violence, witnessing, and survival. We also examine our own responsibility as ethnographers in relation to the production of certain kinds of truths and how anthropology articulates with other realms of knowledge in the worlds of law and policy. Thinking through the juridical complexities of truth and violence is central to the ways in which our subjects grapple with their pasts and desires for the future. Susan Coutin examines truth and legal violence for subjects living in the United States without permanent legal status and applying for an immigration benefit. Understanding transitional justice more broadly in relation to silence, erasure, and public truths in Argentina inform Natasha Zaretsky’s work, who suggests citizens' responses to violence become “acts of repair,” highlighting the fractured temporalities of survival. This also highlights the role of ethnography in understanding how our subjects make sense of violence over time. Such ongoing legacies are also examined in the work of Kimberly Theidon, who discusses children born of wartime sexual violence, drawing upon her research in Peru and Colombia. The ongoing struggle to make sense of a contested past shapes Peter Locke’s work who explores the politics of truth and trauma in ex-Yugoslavia, where accounts of recent history are still deeply divided, including various narratives of truth, violence, and victimhood, leading to uncomfortable encounters on the ground. Such encounters also reveal the pervasive intersections of power and truth at the heart of these questions. Alex Hinton examines these dynamics through his research on white power extremism in the United States in relation to his longstanding work on genocide studies. Dreisen Heath then explores the role of research and advocacy in her work at Human Rights Watch in addressing the legacies of racial violence in the United States, including the Tulsa Race Massacre, and how reckoning with the past and its ongoing impacts shapes the call for reparations. The discussion will be moderated by Victoria Sanford. This roundtable examines how we situate the impact and traces of violence in people’s lives, by exploring public truth-telling, testimony, trials, and the quieter spaces of everyday life • areas where the ethnographic imagination offers insights that further contribute to our understanding of the ongoing legacies of truth and violence.


Transcript English (automatic)

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