News and Events

WOLA-Duke 2015 Human Right Book Award

Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala by Kirsten Weld

February 11, 2016, 6:00pm-7:30pm
Holsti Assembly Room (Rubenstein 153)

Paper CadaversThe Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and Duke University have named Kirsten Weld’s book, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (Duke University Press, 2014) as the winner of the 2015 WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award.

Weld will be at Duke University Libraries to receive the award, discuss and read from her book.  The award presentation will be followed by a reception and book signing.  The event is co-sponsored by the Duke Human Rights Center @ FHI, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Paper Cadavers documents the heroic effort of hundreds of idealistic, activist youth who rescued and organized the National Police records under the leadership of a former guerrilla, Gustavo Meoño. In 2005, activists from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (PDH) of Guatemala, while inspecting police premises for improper storage of explosives in Guatemala City, accidentally came across a trove of 75 to 80 million half-moldy pages of National Police (PN) records.

Kirsten Weld, assistant professor at Harvard University, shows how information once employed by the police state to control society and pursue subversives was put to use by the human rights community to reveal the identity of perpetrators of human rights abuses and to bring many of them to trial. In the words of the author, “Records once used in the service of state terror are repurposed by surviving reformers as building blocks for the rule of law and tools of social reckoning.”

Leonor Blum, WOLA Duke Book Award committee chair and emerita professor of history and political science at Notre Dame of Maryland University says, “Paper Cadavers is far more than a narration of the discovery of Guatemala’s police archives. Weld emphasizes both their importance in the reconstruction of memories of the past and as a form of empowerment for the future. A recent development may be a reflection of the public’s demand for greater transparency and truth. In August 2015, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) informed Guatemalans that their president and vice-president were both involved in notorious graft and corruption scandals. The public immediately took to the streets and demanded their resignation. Both the vice-president and subsequently the president resigned.”

First awarded in 2008, the WOLA/Duke Human Rights Book Award honors the best current, non-fiction book published in English on human rights, democracy, and social justice in contemporary Latin America. The books are evaluated by a panel of expert judges drawn from academia, journalism, and public policy circles.

Previous award receipts are:

2014- Oscar Martínez, The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail
2013- Jonathan M. Katz, The Big Truck That Went By: How The World Came To Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster
2012- Héctor Abad, Oblivion: A Memoir
2011- Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade
2010- Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes, with Jorge Enrique Botero, Hostage Nation
2009- Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, The Dictator’s Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet
2008- Francisco Goldman, Who Killed the Bishop? : The Art of Political Murder


Kelly McLaughlin, WOLA 202-797-2171  or Patrick Stawski, Duke University Libraries 919-660-5823

Faith in Action: In the Footsteps of Abraham Joshua Heschel
From Europe on the Brink of World War II to Selma at the Height of the Civil Rights Movement

Opening Reception (featuring Susannah Heschel and Eric Meyers)
March 21, 2016, 6:00pm, Holsti Assembly Room (Rubenstein 153)

Screening of "From Swastikas to Jim Crowe"
April 19, 2016, 7:00pm, Holsti Assembly Room (Rubenstein 153)

Faith in Action ExhibitAbraham Joshua Heschel grew up in Poland, began his career in Germany and became one of the most influential Jewish theologians of the 20th century in the United States. Heschel dedicated his life to the study of traditional Jewish sources and the application of those sources to the situations faced by Modern Jews. Heschel modeled socially engaged Judaism throughout his life. He represented American Jews at the Second Vatican Council, marched with Martin Luther King Jr. at Selma and protested the Vietnam War. This exhibit showcases Heschel's life and work as a rabbi, philosopher, writer, professor, ecumenist and social activist.

Co-sponsored by the Duke Center for Jewish Studies.