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Against Humanity: Lessons from the Lord's Resistance Army
WhenFriday, Feb. 28, 2020, 10 – 11:20 a.m.
Campus locationDenny Hall (DEN)
Campus room313
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsUW Department of Anthropology, Michael Caputi,, (206) 543-5240
Target Audiencefaculty & students

This talk is not about crimes against humanity.  Rather, it is an account of the prospects for an indictment of ‘humanity’ itself, the concept that lies at the heart of human rights and humanitarian missions.  Based on fieldwork in northern Uganda with former rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an insurgent group accused of rape, forced conscription of children, and inhumane acts of violence, Sam Dubal examines how 'humanity' conceptualizes the LRA as a set of problems rather than a set of possibilities, as inhuman enemies needing reform.  Humanity hegemonizes what counts as good in ways that are difficult to question or challenge.  It relies on very specific notions of the good – shaped in modern, racist ideals of violence, technology, and reason, among others – in ways that often contribute to injustice.  What emerges from this ethnography is an unorthodox question – what would it mean to be ‘against humanity’?  And how can a particular form of anti-humanism foster alternative, more radical efforts at social and racial justice in the realms of medicine, humanitarianism, and politics?

Sam Dubal is a medical anthropologist and physician.  He is currently a visiting scholar at the Center for Social Medicine at the University of California-Berkeley.  He earned his Ph.D. in medical anthropology from the joint program at the University of California-San Francisco and the University of California-Berkeley in 2015, and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 2017.  He completed his internship in general surgery at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California.  He formerly held a research position at the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala, Uganda.  His first book, Against Humanity: Lessons from the Lord's Resistance Army – about which he’ll be speaking – was published by the University of California Press in 2018.  He has previously studied democratic social movements among soccer fans in England and Brazil, as well as social factors influencing HIV transmission in northern Uganda.  His new ethnographic project examines practices of sports betting in Uganda, critically examining discourses of psychopathology ascribed to young men who gamble as a source of livelihood in precarious postcolonial economies.

Those interested in arranging a meeting with Dr. Dubal during his Feb 27-28 visit are asked to contact Michael Caputi at

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