Perpetrator Studies Network

About us

This interdisciplinary network aims to explore difficult questions about perpetrators and perpetration of mass killings, political violence, and genocide, past and present, within the fields of history, criminology, law, forensics, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, memory studies, psychology, politics, literature, film studies, education, and in a variety of memory spaces including literature, film, museums, education, legal trials & the media. In providing this forum for exchange, this network aims to facilitate academic research on perpetrators and perpetration across disciplinary boundaries.

Fundamental questions include, for example, questions of terminology, motivation, ideology, agency, processes and dynamics, as well as questions of prevention: Who or what is a perpetrator? How is such a label applied and by whom? How do such labels evolve? What drives people to commit acts of mass violence and genocide and how do these acts unfold? What measures can be taken to identify potential perpetrators before they act, and what can be done to prevent mass violence from occurring? What can be done to rehabilitate perpetrators after the fact? Another set of questions informing PSN pertains to the status and significance of the perpetrator as a discursive formation in legal, political, historical, philosophical, and cultural settings. How do societies come to terms with acts of perpetration and with the perpetrators themselves? What role does the figure of the perpetrator play in the popular imagination? How do representations of perpetrators change over time and across geographical and cultural boundaries as well as across different media, genres, and traditions? Finally, PSN is also interested in exploring questions of theory and method. What are the ethical and moral implications of studying perpetrators? How do ethical considerations influence the methodological and theoretical criteria of the inquiry? How does one address the inherent ambiguity, limitations, and contentiousness of labels such as “perpetrator,” and the strategic and political implications of their application? 

For a list of workshops, conferences, and other events organized by members of the network, please visit the events page. If you would like to join the network or if you are organizing an event that you would like to have promoted on this website, please contact Susanne Knittel at