Professor Alexander Hinton

The Paradox of Perpetration: Reflections from the Cambodian Genocide


From 1975-1979, Cambodians endured the loss of at least 1.7 million of its 8 million inhabitants, almost a quarter of the population, from disease, starvation, overwork, and outright execution. I will examine some of the insights about perpetrators that may be gleaned from the Cambodian genocide. Specifically, I will consider the category of perpetrator and some of the assumptions underlying it and, using a set of metaphors, the ideology, cultural understandings, and microdynamics that inform and structure perpetration.

Alexander Hinton is Founder and Director of the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights (CGHR), Professor of Anthropology and Global Affairs, and UNESCO Chair on Genocide Prevention at Rutgers University, Newark and has ten edited or co-edited collections, Colonial Genocide in Indigenous North America (Duke, forthcoming in 2015), Mass Violence: Memory, Symptom, and Response (Cambridge, forthcoming in 2015), Hidden Genocide: Power, Knowledge, Memory (Rutgers, 2014), Transitional Justice: Global Mechanisms and Local Realities after Genocide and Mass Violence (Rutgers, 2010), Genocide: Truth, Memory, and Representation (Duke, 2009), Night of the Khmer Rouge: Genocide and Democracy in Cambodia (Paul Robeson Gallery, 2007), Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide (California, 2002), Genocide: An Anthropological Reader (Blackwell, 2002), and Biocultural Approaches to the Emotions (Cambridge, 1999). He is currently working on several other book projects, including a book on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. He serves as an Academic Advisor to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, on the International Advisory Boards of Genocide Studies and Prevention, the Journal of Genocide Research and the Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, as First Vice-President of the Institute for the Study of Genocide and as the editor of the CGHR / Rutgers University Press Series “Genocide, Political Violence, Human Rights.” In 2009, the American Anthropological Association selected Hinton as the recipient of the Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology “for his groundbreaking 2005 ethnography Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide, for path-breaking work in the anthropology of genocide, and for developing a distinctively anthropological approach to genocide.” He was recently listed as one of Fifty Key Thinkers on the Holocaust and Genocide (Routledge, 2011) and is the immediate past President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (2011-13). From 2011-13, Professor Hinton was a Member/Visitor of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton from 2011-13. He has been invited to speak around the globe about genocide and mass violence.