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ALICE Interview 13 – Mark Goodale – Bruno Sena Martins 12/03/2014

Interview in English.


Mark Goodale is an anthropologist, sociolegal scholar, and social theorist. In August 2014, he was appointed Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology (professeur ordinaire) at the University of Lausanne. Before moving to UNIL, he was on the faculty of George Mason University for ten years and before that, he was the first Marjorie Shostak Distinguished Lecturer in Anthropology at Emory University. He is the Series Editor of Stanford Studies in Human Rights and the author or editor of eight books, including, most recently, Neoliberalism, Interrupted: Social Change and Contested Governance in Contemporary Latin America (with Nancy Postero, Stanford UP, 2013), Human Rights at the Crossroads (ed., Oxford UP, 2012), Mirrors of Justice (with Kamari Maxine Clarke, Cambridge UP, 2010; paperback 2014), Surrendering to Utopia (Stanford UP, 2009), Human Rights: An Anthropological Reader (ed., Blackwell, 2009), Dilemmas of Modernity (Stanford UP, 2008), and The Practice of Human Rights (with Sally Engle Merry, Cambridge UP, 2007). Forthcoming books include The Bolivia Reader (with Sinclair Thomson, et. al., Duke UP, 2014). His writings have appeared in Current Anthropology, American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Law & Society Review, Law & Social Inquiry, Social & Legal Studies, Anthropologie et Sociétés, and Ethnohistory, among others, and he is the author of the chapter on human rights in Blackwell’s Companion to Moral Anthropology (2013) and the chapter on law in Blackwell’s Companion to Latin American Anthropology (2008). He is currently working on a number of new projects, including a critical introduction to anthropology and law and an ethnography of revolution, folk cosmopolitanism, and neo-Burkeanism in Bolivia based on several years of research funded by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.



  • Tell me about your personal and intellectual history. How did you become interested by human rights?
  • What is the role for human rights in tackling the dominance of neoliberalism and capitalism in the contemporary world?
  • You have recently published the book “Human Rights at the Crossroads”. What is the role for human rights in the contemporary world?
  • You are an Anthropogist. How do you see the practice of ethnography in a time when social life is so transnational?
  • What do you think that Europe – with its history of colonialism, epistemological arrogance – can learn with the rest of the world, in particular with the Global South?


Short Summary:
Mark Goodale explains that he is an anthropologist who went to Bolivia in the 1990s to study conflict resolution, focusing particularly in the rural areas and in outside the boundaries of the State. During his fieldwork in Bolivia the country was in the midst of what he calls a human rights revolution in face of the transformations imposed by the spread of the neoliberal model. Mark Goodale claims that after the Cold War Human Rights has become the only legitimate program – the only secular framework – for political change in the international community. In that sense, Mark argues that Human Rights are not so much a vehicle for social change as the framework in which social change takes place. From there question arises: “Is it an effective framework for social change?” Trying to answer to this difficult question, Mark recalls several political historical processes that illuminate his reflections on the possibilities and limits of human rights in the contemporary world.



  • Neoliberalism, Interrupted: Social Change and Contested Governance in Contemporary Latin America
  • Human Rights at the Crossroads
  • The Practice of Human Rights: Tracking Law between the Global and the Local