Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism in Colombia

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University of California Press, Oct 9, 2007 - Social Science - 400 pages
At a time when a global consensus on human rights standards seems to be emerging, this rich study steps back to explore how the idea of human rights is actually employed by activists and human rights professionals. Winifred Tate, an anthropologist and activist with extensive experience in Colombia, finds that radically different ideas about human rights have shaped three groups of human rights professionals working there--nongovernmental activists, state representatives, and military officers. Drawing from the life stories of high-profile activists, pioneering interviews with military officials, and research at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Counting the Dead underscores the importance of analyzing and understanding human rights discourses, methodologies, and institutions within the context of broader cultural and political debates.

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Tate sets out to undertake an extraordinarily complicated task - making sense of a remarkably complex political scene in Colombia. While it is quite clear she understands her subject matter, this understanding is by no means transferred to the reader. Throughout the book she begins chapters by explaining what she is going to say in them, and then never going on to say the things. Her frequent use of personal examples only adds to the confusion when mixed with the myriad of organizations she covers (there are around 50 acronyms for groups, and the glossary at the front does little to ease the pain of keeping track.) The writing seems rather jumbled and there is difficult in finding coherence from paragraph to paragraph. Ambitious, but ultimately, a failure. 


Mapping the Eternal Crisis
The First Wave of Colombian Human Rights Activism
3 The Production of Human Rights Knowledge and the Practice of Politics
4 The Emotional Politics of Activism in the 1990s
5 The Global Imaginaries of Colombian Activists at the United Nations and Beyond
6 State Activism and the Production of Impunity
7 Human Rights and the Colombian Militarys War Stories
The Politics of Human Rights Knowledge
Selected Bibliography

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Page 20 - fourth modality of power," which was, for him, the power manifest in relationships that not only operates within settings and domains but also organizes and orchestrates the settings themselves, and that specifies the direction and distribution of energy flows. In Marxian terms, this refers to the power to deploy and allocate social labor ... it is ... the modality of power addressed by Michel Foucault when he spoke of "governance," to mean the exercise of "action upon action.

About the author (2007)

Winifred Tate is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studes at Brown University and will become an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Colby College in September 2008.

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