ISBN-10: 0812209311

ISBN-13: 9780812209310

The observe and thought of sufferer endure a heavy weight. to symbolize oneself or to be represented as a sufferer is usually a first and important step towards having one's discomfort and one's claims to rights socially and legally well-known. but to call oneself or be referred to as a sufferer is a dicy declare, and social scientists needs to fight to prevent erasing both survivors' event of ache or their employer and resourcefulness. Histories of Victimhood engages with this difficulty, asking how one may perhaps realize and recognize discomfort with no essentializing affected groups and members.

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As Justice William Brennan observed in Furman v. Georgia, however, there can be cruelty far worse than bodily pain or mutilation. ”5 And it is striking how current legal redefinitions of what constitutes cruel or unusual punishment have so much in common with statute and case law that reconstructed the identity of slaves (Dayan 2007: 51–­ 57). From eighteenth-­century slave codes to twentieth-­century prison cases to twenty-­first-­century Bush torture memos, lawyers created a new class of nonhumans.

Some stories tell us that humaneness has shaped how our societies exercise pain over time. Not surprisingly, politicians, caregivers, and activists hotly contest any particular history. And, not surprisingly, these debates depend on identifying the inhumanity in any particular practice. With so many positions on what counts as inhumane, it is tempting to think that what is or is not humane is simply subjective. There is a story that captures this subjectivity quite well. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Japanese government faced a problem of penal reform.

None of this is to say that slaves were not tortured in ancient Athens. Athenians treated their slaves brutally, as did the Romans who followed them. The important point pertains to the practices regarding citizens, not slaves. The Greeks and the Romans took great pride in their way of life. They were very self-­conscious about the privileges accorded to them as citizens. The citizens of a polis were the only people who lived freely and according to reason, so only they were subjected to humane punishments.

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Histories of Victimhood (The Ethnography of Political Violence)


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