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Performances of Violence

An interdisciplinary analysis of the cultural meanings of violence

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From acts of terrorism to war, from arson to capital punishment, from sadism to torture, performances of violence are all around us. Sometimes they grab headlines and rivet our attention, sometimes they are barely noticed, constituting part of our taken-for-granted world. Yet whether dramatic or barely noticed, violence seems everywhere to be on the rise. The essays in this volume explore the relationship between selfhood, agency, and violence, focusing on the psychic life of violence and its expression in the performances of particular individuals. At the same time, they look more closely at the way political contexts and ideologies shape both particular performances of violence and the way they are understood. By drawing on the expertise of scholars in a variety of fields—anthropology, history, political theory, law, and social thought—this book seeks to expose some of the subterranean cross currents of the cultural lives of violence and, in so doing, to reveal their connections. In addition to the editors, contributors include criminal justice scholar Mary Welek Atwell, anthropologist Veena Das, historian Ruth Miller, political scientist Anne Norton, political scientist Corey Robin, and historian Paul Steege.

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