The University of Arizona

Advanced Search
Catalogs The Books The Store News and Events Contact
The El Mozote Massacre
Anthropology and Human Rights
By Leigh Binford
263 pp. / 6.00 in x 9.00 in / 1996
Paper (978-0-8165-1662-9) [s]
  - Hegemony and Experience

Related Interest
  - Latin American Studies
  - Anthropology

The 1981 slaughter of more than a thousand civilians around El Mozote, El Salvador, by the country's U.S.-trained army was the largest massacre of the Salvadoran civil war. The story was
Binford's call for a more humanistic anthropology and a less apathetic world comes across clearly. . . . well written, compelling, and recommended for all those interested in Latin America, anthropological ethics, and human rights.

—Human Mosaic

Binford's book does an admirable job in meticulously reconstructing the events which led up to the massacre. He is intent on making the victims of the massacre real human beings with lives and livelihoods, not an anonymous mass of people. His broader aim is to show how quantifying human rights statistics can dehumanize the victims and desensitize people to what is actually involved. His anthropological study is the most interesting part of the book.

—Latin American Studies

covered—and soon forgotten—by the international news media. It was revived in 1993 only when the U.S. government was accused of covering up the incident. Such reportage, argues anthropologist Leigh Binford, sustains the perception that the lives of Third World people are only newsworthy when some great tragedy strikes. He critiques the practices of journalists and human rights organizations for their dehumanizing studies of "subjects" and "victims." Binford suggests that such accounts objectify the people involved through statistical analyses and bureaucratic body counts while the news media sensationalize the motives and personalities of the perpetrators. In relating the story of this tragic event, Binford restores a sense of history and social identity to the fallen people of this Salvadoran village. Drawing on interviews he conducted with El Mozote-area residents, he offers a rich ethnographic and personal account of their lives prior to the tragedy. He provides an overview of the history and culture of the area and tells how such a massacre could have happened, why it was covered up, and why it could happen again.

Top of Page

(800) 621-2736
(520) 621-1441

© 1996 The University of Arizona Press
Main Library Building, 5th Floor
1510 E. University Blvd.
P.O. Box 210055
Tucson, AZ 85721-0055