Why We Kill
Understanding Violence Across Cultures and Disciplines
Edited by Nancy Loucks, Sally Smith Holt, Joanna R. Adler
Willan – 2009 – 248 pages
Infanticide, serial killings, war, terrorism, abortion, honour killings, euthanasia, suicide bombings and genocide; all involve taking of life. Put most simply, all involve killing one or more other people. Yet cultural context influences heavily how one perceives all of these, and indeed, some readers of this paragraph may already have thought: 'But surely thatdoesn't belong with those others, that's not really killing.'
Why We Kill examines violence in many of its manifestations, exploring how culture plays a role in people's understanding of violent action.
From the first chapter, which tries to understand multiple forms of domestic homicide including infanticide, filicide, spousal homicide and honour killings, to the final chapter's bone-chilling account of the massacre at Murambi in Rwanda, this fascinating book makes compelling reading.
'Why are some killings venerated (war) or deemed honorable (some suicides), or others protected by law (abortion, capital punishment), while others seem universally proscribed (serial killing, genocide)? Editors Loucks, Holt, and Adler have assembled nine outstanding essays from scholars who take pains to elucidate the role that gender, culture, and context play in framing the meaning of the killing act. Maria Kaspersson examines gender oppression in domestic killings, paying attention to honor killings, dowry killings, and suttee ideals in India. The Stephen Smith article on the Murambi Massacre in Rwanda is quite chilling in its interview-based exploration of the motivations for civilians slaughtering their neighbors and even family members. The essay on terrorism considers the role that religion plays in justifying this form of "low-cast, high-impact" violence (Rohan Gunaratna), while psychobiological and social learning factors are the focus of an excellent article on the collective killing of war (Daya Somasundaram). The essays are consistently informed and insightful, and the editors have succeeded in exploring the "contextual, multi-layered and complex manifestations" of killing in this timely volume that will be useful to scholars and accessible to general readers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.' – L. Steffen, Lehigh University in Choice, July 2010
'The collection of readings on the practice of killing by Nancy Luocks, Sally Smith Holt and Joanna R. Adler provides a unique approach to the queston of why individuals kill across different contexts and disciplines. … Each chapter is well-written and provides a critical anaylis focusing on both macro- and micro-responses to current issues as well as relevant past debates.
This is an interesting and provocative book which will prove useful for readers in all areas of academic study. The rudimentary nature of the book is ideal as an introduction to specific instances of killing whilst providing an original explamination of the ramification and influence of cultural contexts, psychological debates, legal issues and moral dilemmas. The extensive list of references in each chapter provides one with the necessary tools to seek further reading in the study of killing. The interdisciplinary approach coupled with varying types of killing provides a fresh outlook on why individuals kill in the first instance. Why We Kill is enthusiastically recommended to anyone interested in the study of killing or fascinated with the reasons for, and justificatoins of, why people behave the way they do.' – Rachelle M. Larocque, PhD Student, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, in The Howard Journal Vol 49 No 5. December 2010
Introduction: Religion, Culture and Killing, Sally Smith Holt, Nancy Loucks and Joanna R. Adler 1. 'You always hurt the one you love': Homicide in a Domestic Context, Maria Kaspersson 2. Serial Killing, Keith Soothill 3. Capital Punishment: Creating More Victims?, Peter Hodgkinson, Seema Kandelia and Rupa Reddy 4. Abortion: Understanding the Moral Issues, Lawrence M. Hinman 5. Euthanasia: An Introduction to the Moral Issues, Lawrence M. Hinman 6. Suicide, Kay Nooney 7. Terrorism: A Unique Form of Political Violence, Rohan Gunaratna 8. Collective Violence and War, Daya Somasundaram 9. Massacre at Murambi: The Rank and File Killers of Genocide, Stephen Smith Epilogue: Why we Kill, Nancy Loucks, Sally Smith Holt and Joanna R. Adler
Nancy Loucks is Chief Executive of Families Outside, a charity dedicated to providing support to the families of people involved in the criminal justice system.
Sally Smith Holt is Associate Professor of Religion at William Jewel College, US.
Joanna Adler is Director of Forensic Psychology Studies at Middlesex University.