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In following the policy of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), this event has been cancelled due to recent measures being implemented to prevent the further spreading of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Event details of [CANCELLED] Who becomes a 'bystander'?
Date 2 April 2020
Time 18:00 -21:00

The UvA (and by extension AUC) is following the measures and recommendations of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Public Health Service of Amsterdam (GGD). Based on these recommendations, the UvA has implemented a number of policies in order to better protect the health and safety of students and staff. Among these policies is that all events at the University of Amsterdam (and therefore AUC) have been cancelled until at least 29 May 2020. 

AUC is a joint programme of VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam. In the case of additional measures related to the new Coronavirus, AUC will operationally function under the UvA. For more information about how these new measures may impact teaching, events or other procedures at AUC, please visit


This fourth seminar in the "Making sense of mass violence" series will focus on the bystander. Is a bystander someone who refuses to partake in the violence, but is not active in preventing the violence from occurring? Is a bystander someone who refuses to partake in the violence, but is not active in protecting the victims? What actions count as 'making a difference' and when is someone just classified as a bystander? Is there a choice or are you "damned if you do and damned if you don't"? Some people do not join the violence...what leads certain people to dissent, to desert, to become a witness while still being part of the perpetrator's organisation? What is the role of ideology, circumstances, personal believes and values, personal history and experience?

What role do bystanders play in the dynamic of conflict escalation and resolution? Does being a bystander automatically make you culpable of having done little to prevent the ongoing crimes? Are we all bystanders in the crimes our governments or militaries perpetrate abroad (drone strikes, bombings of urban areas, etc.) because we know about it, but do not actively try to prevent such crimes?

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Abram de Swaan is an essayist, sociologist and professor emeritus at the University of Amsterdam. In 1996, he became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. His most important recent book is The Killing Compartments: The Mentality of Mass Murder (Yale University Press, 2015). His full bio can be found at 
Location: Room 1.02
Amsterdam University College
Science Park 113
Amsterdam 1098XG
Convenors: Dr. Erica Pasini & Dr. Maxim Kupovykh