Dr. Kimberly Theidon is a medical anthropologist focusing on Latin America. Her research interests include domestic, structural and political violence; gender studies; theories and forms of subjectivity; human rights and international humanitarian law; transitional justice; the politics of post-war reparations; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs for ex-combatants; and US counter-narcotics policy.
Dr. Theidon’s first book, Entre Prójimos: El conflicto armado interno y la política de la reconciliación en el Perú (Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1st edition 2004; 2nd edition 2009) draws upon extensive qualitative research on political violence, trauma, religious movements and struggles over memory in post-war Peru. Her comparative community-based study of the micropolitics of reconciliation practiced at the communal and intercommunal levels identifies various factors that facilitate–or hinder–the reconstruction of social relationships and coexistence in the aftermath of fratricidal violence.
Entre Prójimos was awarded the Latin American Studies Association 2006 Premio Iberoamericano Book Award Honorable Mention for outstanding book in the social sciences published in Spanish or Portuguese. Additionally, Entre Prójimos served as the primary inspiration for the film La Teta Asustada (The Milk of Sorrow), Claudia Vargas Llosa’s award-winning movie about sexual violence, memory and the complicated issue of reconciliation in ethnically-divided Peru. More information.
Dr. Theidon’s second book, Intimate Enemies: Violence and Reconciliation in Peru (Studies in Human Rights, University of Pennsylvania Press 2012) focuses on the aftermath of Peru’s internal armed conflict, as well as the legacies of the truth and reconciliation commission that was established to investigate the causes and consequences of the war. Intimate Enemies explores post-conflict reconstruction, attuned both to devastation as well as to people’s tenacity for life.
At some point in reading accounts of mass violence, there is usually a moment in which the reader sets down the text, shakes his or her head, and wonders “how in the world did this happen?” How did people commit acts of lethal violence against individuals with whom they had lived for years? How could family members and neighbors become enemies that one was willing to track down and kill? Intimate Enemies: Violence and Reconciliation in Peru plunges the reader into the heart of Peru’s internal armed conflict in an attempt to answer those questions, and to pose a few more. One particularity of civil wars is that foreign armies do not wage the attacks. Frequently the enemy is a son-in-law, a godfather, an old schoolmate, or the community that lies just across the valley. There is no invading army that gathers up weapons and returns to some distant land. Not these wars. When the killing stops, people are left living side by side. What happens next? Drawing upon years of research with communities in the highlands of Ayacucho, Theidon examines how Peruvians are rebuilding individual lives and collective existence following twenty years of armed conflict. These efforts are relevant in many other contexts in which people strive to reinvent everyday life amid landscapes steeped in blood and memory, fully aware of the danger human beings pose to one another.
Dr. Theidon is currently completing two book manuscripts. The first is Pasts Imperfect: Working with Former Combatants in Colombia (under contract, University of Pennsylvania Press). This book draws upon several years of research with former combatants from the paramilitaries, the FARC and the ELN. A key challenge following mass violence is what to do with the thousands of low-level perpetrators whose sheer numbers may overwhelm the legal system and whose return to civilian life may generate tremendous fear and resentment. In this book, Dr. Theidon discusses how these former combatants conceptualize not only killing, but also justice, reparations, and reconciliation — concepts that are central concerns to the growing field of transitional justice. Taking the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration program (DDR) as its point of departure, Pasts Imperfect explores the lives of these men and women, and the complicated social dynamics that ensue as they return to civilian life.
The second manuscript is "Speaking of Silences: Gender, Violence and Redress in Peru." This book explores how the victim-centric logic of transitional justice may silence other relationships people have with their pasts, particularly with regard to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence. Dr. Theidon analyzes interviews with women and men about their experiences of sexual violence, questioning certain common sense notions of gender and war. Speaking of Silences contributes to a new wave of research on the uses of sexual violence during armed conflict to generate both theoretical conversations as well as recommendations for future reparations programs.
I am an International Faculty Member in the Community Psychology Graduate Program at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.
I also serve as a Faculty Mentor in the Security, Drugs and Democracy Program, sponsored by the Social Science Research Council and the Open Society Institute.
I am a member of the Editorial Board at the Journal of Human Rights.
At Harvard I am member of the Standing Committee on Ethnic Studies, the Committee on Degrees in Women, Gender and Sexuality, and the Policy Committee at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.
Dr. Theidon is the executive director of Praxis Institute for Social Justice.
More information, see www.kimberlytheidon.com
John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences
Department of Anthropology
William James Hall 406
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
T | 617 495-3805
F | 617 496-8355
"My research past and present reflects what drew me into the field of medical anthropology: the power of critical theory to illuminate pressing social issues."