Abram De Swaan will talk about his new book The Killing Compartments; The Mentality of Mass Murder (Yale U.P. 2015). In his book, de Swaan develops the argument that episodes of mass annihilation occur in societies that have gone through a process of compartmentalization, in which the target group is increasingly separated from the rest of the population at every level: culturally and institutionally, in everyday interaction and in personal experience. But the process of annihilation may proceed in different modes, such as a ‘conquerors’ frenzy’ or a self-destructive ‘losers’ triumph’. The almost complete consensus that genocidal perpetrators are ‘ordinary men’, de Swaan argues, has blocked the insight that most perpetrators do differ in some decisive respects from most other people.
Abram de Swaan is Emeritus Distinguished Research Professor of Social Science at the University of Amsterdam and presently Adjunct Professor in the Deptartment of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York. After his graduate studies at Yale and UC Berkeley, he received a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Amsterdam. De Swaan also trained and practiced as a psychoanalytic therapist. He was co-founder, director and later chairman of the Amsterdam School of Social Science Research (1987-2007), and taught at Cornell, Columbia, Paris-Sorbonne and the Collège de France (chaire Européenne), among other universities around the world. His books have been translated in a dozen languages. For his essays, he was awarded the prestigious PC Hooft prize for literature in The Netherlands.
Alex Whiting is a Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School where he teaches, writes and consults on domestic and international criminal prosecution issues. From 2010 to 2013, professor Whiting served at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, overseeing investigations and ongoing prosecutions. From 2002-2007, he was a Trial Attorney and then a Senior Trial Attorney with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. He was lead prosecution counsel in Prosecutor v. Fatmir Limaj, Isak Musliu, and Haradin Bala; Prosecutor v. Milan Martic; and Prosecutor v. Dragomir Miloševic.