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Perpetrator Studies Network

W 2: Theories, Concepts, Approaches

The second workshop, Teaching about Perpetrators: Theories, Concepts, Approaches, took place at Utrecht University on April 28-30, 2016.

The second workshop in the series, focused on theoretical and conceptual frameworks for the study of and teaching about perpetrators, as well as various disciplinary, methodological approaches. We discussed the definition and usefulness of the concept of the perpetrator, specifically with regard to pedagogy. When we teach about “perpetrators,” what do we teach? Relatedly, we examined a variety of theories of evil, likewise with a view to its applicability in an educational setting. These concepts also raise questions regarding disciplines and approaches. For example, evil might be investigated in a discourse-analytic mode as an epithet that is strategically deployed within the discourse of guilt and responsibility, but it might also be made to perform conceptual work as part of a theory of perpetratorship. We will also consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of existing theories based on binary pairs such as functionalism / intentionalism, rationality / ideology, disposition / situation, and normality / abnormality (e.g. in the commonplace of the “ordinary men” who commit these crimes).