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Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism in Colombia (California Series in Public Anthropology)

Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism in Colombia (California Series in Public Anthropology)
Author: Winifred Tate
ISBN 13: 9780520252837
ISBN 10: 520252837
Edition: 1
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication Date: 2007-10-09
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
List Price: $34.95

"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

"Winifred Tate has written a deeply researched, critically sophisticated, and compelling ethnography of a little-examined, but enormously important and timely subject: human rights discourse and the individuals and institutions that struggle to define and deploy it within the often violent reality of contemporary Colombia. The author's deep familiarity with NGO and human rights-related scholarship and activism enormously enriches this account. By situating the detailed and particular trajectories of the individuals and institutions she examines within a historically contingent framework that takes into account the influence of larger social, political, economic, and ideological currents in shaping the philosophy and objectives of Colombian human rights workers and organizations over time, Tate is able to seamlessly navigate between fine-grained analysis and abstract comparison and extrapolation. This illuminating and lucidly written analysis has path-breaking implications not only for the study of Colombia, but for those interested in exploring the possibilities and limitations of a human rights framework to shape the parameters of conflict resolution and defense of individual rights in situations of conflict across the globe. A definite must read."—Mary Jean Roldan, Cornell University