Counting the Dead

Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism was published by the University of California Press Public Anthropology Series.

Drawing from the life stories of high-profile activists, pioneering interviews with military officials, and research at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Counting the Dead underscores the importance of analyzing and understanding human rights discourses, methodologies, and institutions within the context of broader cultural and political debates.

Table of Contents:

1. Colombia Mapping the Eternal Crisis

2. Solidarity with Our Class Brothers: The First Wave of Human Rights Activism in Colombia
3. The Production of Human Rights Knowledge and the Practice of Politics
4. The Emotional Politics of Activism in the 1990s
5. The Global Imaginaries of Colombian Activists at the United Nations and Beyond
6. State Activism and the Production of Impunity
7. Human Rights and the Colombian Military’s War Stories
Conclusion: The Politics of Human Rights Knowledge


2009 Bryce Wood Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association for outstanding work in the social sciences and the humanities on Latin America published in English

2009 Sharon Stephens Book Prize from the American Ethnological Society, awarded to a first book that speaks to contemporary social issues with relevance beyond the discipline and beyond the academy

2007 Michael Jiménez Prize for outstanding work in Colombian Studies, LASA

“Contributes significantly to our understanding of how activist institutional culture and identity evolves in a context where traditional labor and religious activists increasingly engage with and become more deeply enmeshed in the larger global activist community.”—Hispanic American Historical Review (hahr)

“[A] Strong, smart, thorough book very valuable for anyone trying to understand Colombia’s recent history.”—The Americas

“There is nothing out there like Counting the Dead. Drawing on years of firsthand experience with those on the front lines of human rights work in Colombia, Winifred Tate guides the reader through an untold history of brave but quixotic efforts to build a democratic rule of law amid one of the world’s most intractable, complicated conflicts. Written in clear, journalistic language and peppered with anecdotes, Counting the Dead introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters-brave but fractious activists, out-of-touch government officials, wily military officers-all of whom tailor the language of human rights to their own agendas. Anyone who hopes to understand modern Colombia-or indeed, the challenges of human rights advocacy and state building amid conflict anywhere in the twenty-first century-would do well to read this book.”—Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy

“How do human rights actually work in situations of ongoing conflict and violence? This wonderfully rich and detailed study of human rights organizations and activists in Colombia offers fascinating insights into the complexity of human rights and their advocates-ranging from leftists to the military. Essential reading for those interested in a sophisticated, historical understanding of human rights, the book is a major contribution to the exciting new anthropological field that examines the practice of human rights.”—Sally Engle Merry, New York University

Counting the Dead is a fascinating portrait of the pathology, pain, and hope of the struggle for human rights in Colombia. Powerfully weaving together personal narratives with historical analysis, this deeply researched, thoughtful, and moving study offers new understanding of the nature of knowledge and power; it is a model of engaged anthropology.”—Alison Brysk, University of California, Irvine

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