Hinton studies roots of state

violence under Khmer Rouge

The job market for some PhD graduates may be tough, but Alex Hinton, who received his doctorate in anthropology, is one graduate who has not had difficulty in securing employment. He has been offered a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago and has a good shot at a tenure-track teaching position at UCLA.

In pursuing his degree, Hinton spent 15 months in Cambodia in 1994 and '95 examining the social and cultural patterns that gave rise to that country's 1975-79 genocide. His research received many grants including funds from the National Institutes of Health, the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation and the Institute for the Study of World Politics to name a few.

Why would study of genocide in Cambodia spark such interest in so many diverse groups? "My research examines the roots of violence," explained Hinton. "If you understand how violence starts, you can start to find a solution. For example, if you can see a cycle of revenge beginning, you can intervene at an earlier point in the cycle to stop it." Since his return to Emory, Hinton has been studying and analyzing the field data he gathered while in Cambodia. His dissertation is titled "Cambodia's Shadow: An Examination of the Cultural Origins of Genocide."

Hinton's research examined how the Khmer Rouge transformed Cambodia into an agrarian, communist society, systematically banning Buddhism, forming communes, undermining the family structure and reorganizing economic production, all of which appeared to have contributed to eliminating a society's natural checks on violence.

Hinton hopes to do a comparative analysis of Nazi Germany, the Khmer Rouge and the Rwandan genocide. He likely will travel to Rwanda in the next few years.

After receiving an undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University in 1985, Hinton joined Emory's fledgling anthropology department. He said he has enjoyed being part of the department's growth. "The anthropology program was new when I got here and now it's one of the best in the country. I've enjoyed it here a lot," he remarked.

There is more than one Emory degree in Hinton's family: his wife, Nicole Cooley, is a 1996 graduate who won several poetry awards while here. She currently is teaching at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, and her first novel will be published by HarperCollins in the fall.

-Deb Hammacher

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