The Moral Witness: Trials and Testimony After Genocide

Carolyn J Dean (Author)


The Moral Witness is the first cultural history of the witness to genocide in the West. Carolyn J. Dean shows how the witness became a protagonist of twentieth-century moral culture by tracing the emergence of this figure in courtroom battles from the 1920s to the 1960s--covering the Armenian genocide, the Ukrainian pogroms, the Soviet Gulag, and the trial of Adolf Eichmann. In these trials, witness testimonies differentiated the crime of genocide from war crimes and began to form our understanding of modern political and cultural murder.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the witness to genocide became a pervasive icon of suffering humanity and a symbol of western moral conscience. Dean sheds new light on the recent global focus on survivors' trauma. Only by placing the moral witness in a longer historical trajectory, she demonstrates, can we understand how the stories we tell about survivor testimony have shaped both our past and contemporary moral culture.

--Thomas Keenan, Bard College, and co-author of Mengele's Skull "Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books"

Product Details

Cornell University Press
Publish Date
April 15, 2019
5.98 X 0.46 X 9.02 inches | 0.66 pounds
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About the Author

Carolyn J. Dean is Charles J. Stille Professor of History and French at Yale University. She is a cultural and intellectual historian of Modern Europe and the author of five books, including The Fragility of Empathy after the Holocaust and Aversion and Erasure.


Dean has provided a sophisticated and nuanced analysis of the emergence of the witness as a moral symbol and pervasive icon of suffering and surviving genocide and mass atrocities.... The book will be valuable to students and scholars who study genocide, testimony, victimhood, and social and cultural trauma in the aftermath of mass atrocities.

--Thomas Keenan, Bard College, and co-author of Mengele's Skull "Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books"