"Hinton has traveled to the heart and soul of the Cambodian people."Youk Chhang, Director, Documentation Center of Cambodia
In Why Did They Kill?, Hinton explores the cultural roots of Khmer Rouge genocidal behavior. Hinton brings extensive fieldwork, wide reading and a compassionate turn of mind to bear on the awful question posed by the title.
In the process, he takes us closer to the darkness at the heart of the Khmer Rouge and the darkness inside ourselves. This is a fearless, important and deeply resonant book."David Chandler, author of Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison
"Alex Hinton's bold, unflinching, and ethnographically rich account of the dialectics of genocide is an essential contribution to the anthropology of evil."Nancy Scheper-Hughes, author of Death without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil
"Nowhere else has the bodily, literally visceral, dimension of genocide been so well illustrated. Hinton's study contributes greatly to efforts, which must be continuous for all of us, to combat genocidal forces everywhere."Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors and Superpower Syndrome: America's Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World
"A riveting analysis of the Cambodian genocide. Using detailed materials and careful arguments, Hinton interweaves the ideological constructions, the cultural dimensions, the mechanisms that manufactured difference and dissolved humanity, and the subjective experiences and meaning-making that engaged the perpetrators, showing how they worked together to make up the process. A remarkable achievement!"Fredrik Barth, Professor of Anthropology, Boston University/University of Oslo
"Alex Hinton provides an analysis of the Cambodian genocide that for the first time explains the extreme cruelty of the Khmer Rouge regime as a manifestation of deep structures in Cambodian culture. Hinton's probing field research is in the best tradition of Clifford Geertz, Victor Turner, and the finest cultural anthropologists."Gregory Stanton, President, Genocide Watch
In this study of a once-peaceful Buddhist society that got so caught up with Marxism that it came to see virtue in violence and honor in auto-genocide, Hinton goes further than most accounts of the horrors of Pol Pot's regime in exploring the cultural factors that made Cambodians in the Khmer Rouge willing to kill so many other Cambodians. His sophisticated argument, based on subtle analysis of the Khmer language and extensive anthropological study, shows how Cambodian culture attached great importance to power, patronage, status, and honor; perceived humiliation legitimates anger and retribution, creating the potential for disproportionate revenge. Suddenly finding themselves part of a new elite, young Khmer Rouge recruits were encouraged to dwell on past affronts to their dignity and that of their families and to show no mercy in seeking retribution against "class enemies" and others perceived as threats. The extraordinary power in Hinton's analysis stems from his readiness to confront hard questions and his skill in elucidating the elements in Cambodian culture that made genocide possible. Although he is careful to keep his analysis focused on the Cambodian case, his insights also help explain genocides in general.