“Toward an Anthropology of Culpability.” In American Ethnologist, 31 (2), 2004, 145-163.
Anthropologists concerned with political violence and justice must engage in a comparative examination of culpability for past and ongoing crimes. When powerful states use reparations, truth commissions, or war crime tribunals to attribute culpability to others, including their past selves, they often, paradoxically, legitimize ongoing injustices. As against culturalist explanations for mass violence, which set up a hierarchy of cultures, we need to look at the institutional sites through which public morality is constructed. This approach is illustrated with reference to the killing of Muslims in Gujarat, India, in 2002 and to the invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003.
keywords: culpability, comparative anthropology, reparations, genocide, war, India, United States
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