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Perpetrator Studies Network

About us

The figure of the perpetrator represents a paradox in contemporary society and culture. One facet of this paradox is the oscillation between the desire and need to understand the motivations behind these people’s actions on the one hand and, on the other, the ethical imperative not to try to understand, because understanding might imply forgiveness. The latter can be seen in the pervasive reluctance within the public sphere, in education, and especially in commemorative discourse and practice, to engage with the complexities and nuances of perpetratorship and the figure of the perpetrator.
To a certain extent, this reluctance is an artefact of the binary rhetoric of good versus evil that characterized the second half of the Twentieth Century. Since 1989, however, and even more so since 2001, these clear-cut distinctions have become harder to maintain. Notwithstanding the efforts of politicians and the news media to preserve these dichotomies, the representation of “good guys” and “bad guys” in recent historiography, literature, film, television, and other cultural media is significantly more ambiguous and multifaceted.

This interdisciplinary network aims to explore difficult questions about perpetrators 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 and education and in a variety of memory spaces including literature, film, museums, education, legal trials & the media. In providing this cross-disciplinary space this network aims to facilitate academic research on this topic across disciplinary boundaries.

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 s.c.knittel@uu.nl.