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Man or Monster?: The Trial of a Khmer Rouge Torturer
Published by Duke University Press
Alexander Laban Hinton offers a detailed analysis of a former Khmer Rouge security center commandant who was convicted for overseeing the interrogation, torture, and execution of nearly 20,000 Cambodians. Interested in how someone becomes an executioner, Hinton provides numerous ways to consider justice, genocide, memory, truth, and humanity.
During the Khmer Rouge's brutal reign in Cambodia during the mid-to-late 1970s, a former math teacher named Duch served as the commandant of the S-21 security center, where as many as 20,000 victims were interrogated, tortured, and executed. In 2009 Duch stood trial for these crimes against humanity. While the prosecution painted Duch as evil, his defense lawyers claimed he simply followed orders. In Man or Monster? Alexander Hinton uses creative ethnographic writing, extensive fieldwork, hundreds of interviews, and his experience attending Duch's trial to create a nuanced analysis of Duch, the tribunal, the Khmer Rouge, and the after-effects of Cambodia's genocide. Interested in how a person becomes a torturer and executioner as well as the law's ability to grapple with crimes against humanity, Hinton adapts Hannah Arendt's notion of the banality of evil to consider how the potential for violence is embedded in the everyday ways people articulate meaning and comprehend the world. Man or Monster? provides novel ways to consider justice, terror, genocide, memory, truth, and humanity.
The Accused, Fact Sheet, Public Version-Radacted 1 Foreground. Monster 3 Part I. Confession Interrogation. Comrade Duch's Abecedarian 41 1. Man (Opening Arguments) 44 2. Revolutionary (M-13 Prison) 68 3. Subordinate (Establishment of S-21) 90 4. Cog (Policy and Implementation) 103 5. Commandant (Functioning of S-21) 130 6. Master (Torture and Execution) 142 Erasure. Durch's Apology 168 Part II. Reconstruction Torture, A Collage. The Testimony of Prak Khan, S-21 Interrogator 171 7. Villain (The Civil Parties) 176 8. Zealot (Prosecution) 197 9. Scapegoat (Defense) 213 10. The Accused (Trial Chamber Judgment) 229 Background. Redactic (Final Decision) 243 Epilogue. Man or Monster? (Conviction) 288 Acknowledgments 297 Timeline 301 Abbreviations 303 Notes 305 Bibliography 335 Index 345
Alexander Laban Hinton is Founding Director, Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights and Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University. He is coeditor of Colonial Genocide in Indigenous North America, also published by Duke University Press, and author of the award-winning Why Did They Kill?: Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide.
Reviewer: Ian Rapley
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