Perspectives on Evil

From Banality to Genocide


Editor: Kanta Dihal
The question of evil is one of the oldest and most intensely studied topics in intellectual history. In fiction, legend and mythology the boundary between good and evil is often depicted as clear-cut, at least to the reader or listener, who is supposed to understand such tales as lessons and warnings. Evil is something that must be avoided by the hero in some cases and vanquished in others; it is either the exact opposite of the expected good behaviour, or its complete absence. Even so, for the characters in these didactic fictions, it turns out to be deceptively easy to fall to the infernal, ‘dark’ side. The chapters in this volume share a common thread – they all engage with ‘real’ evil: events and deeds of an evil nature that have been lived in the (recent) past and have become part of history, rather than fictional evil.

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Biographical Note

Kanta Dihal, D.Phil. (2018), Oxon., is Principal Investigator on the Global AI Narratives project at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge. She is co-editor of AI Narratives (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Table of contents

Notes on Contributors

Kanta Dihal

Part 1
The Banality and the Familiarity of Evil

1 From Victims to Perpetrators: the Banality of Evil in Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones
Damian Catani
2 Unspeakable Banality: Discourse in Dispute
Cassie Pedersen

Part 2
Genocide in Rwanda

3 In Plain Sight: the Ethics of Proximity in the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide
Sarah Gendron
4 On the Role of Nation-States in Regulating Evil: a Case Study on Rwanda
Sally Nadeau
5 Extraordinary Forgiveness
Jennifer Vanderheyden

Part 3
Capitalism and the Socio-Psychology of Evil

6 Late Capitalism, Psychopathy and the Ontology of Evil
Helen Patey
7 Psychologising Evil in the Media: a Market- Like Exchange of Political Responsibility for Isolation in the Greek Crisis Environment
Sophia Kanaouti
8 The Fury of ‘Ressentiment’: Binary Codes, Evil and Society
Spiros Gangas
9 On the Usefulness of Being Unrealistic: a Critique of Freud’s Arguments against Neighbour Love
Regan Lance Reitsma

Part 4
Dehumanization, the Law and the Prison

10 Socio-Spatial Scripts: Evil and the Contestation of Space and Being
Rallie Murray
11 The Intersection between Evil and Architecture: Environment and Agency
Robert W. Butler
12 Choosing between Two Evils: a Philosophical Consideration of the Defences of Necessity and Duress in English Law
Stephen Banks


All interested in interdisciplinary humanities, Holocaust studies, genocide, war crimes, capitalism, and evil in fiction; undergraduate or Master’s students working on interdisciplinarity; the Holocaust; genocide; the financial crisis; and law.

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