About This Book

Gender violence has been at the forefront of women’s human rights struggles for decades, shaping political movements and NGO and government programs related to women’s empowerment, community development, and public health. Drawing on over twenty years of research and activism in rural Ecuador, Karin Friederic provides an intimate view of what these rights-based programs actually achieve over the long term. The Prism of Human Rights brings us into the lives of women, men, and children who find themselves entangled in intimate partner violence, structural violence, political economic change, and a global cultural project in which “rights” are associated with modernity, development, and democratic states. She demonstrates that rights-based interventions provide important openings for women seeking a life free of violence, but they also unwittingly expose “liberated” women to more extreme dynamics of structural violence. 

About the Author/Editor

KARIN FRIEDERIC is an associate professor of anthropology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


 “Karin Friederic’s critical approach to human rights practice draws on a wealth of ethnographic data collected across decades of ethically and politically committed research. Her nuanced reading of the interactions between the state, the law, rights-based interventions and women’s lives, in contexts of extreme gender-based violence, is a key contribution to understanding the limits and paradoxes of human rights. This is a hard but necessary lesson to advance a responsible fight for women’s dignity.” 
–Silvana Tapia Tapia, author of Feminism, Violence Against Women, and Law Reform: Decolonial Lessons from Ecuador

“Karin Friederic’s The Prism of Human Rights is a compelling, emotional, and ethnographically rich read. Using political economy and the best of interpretivist anthropology, Friederic seamlessly weaves scales of violence in and through Las Colinas, a place that is richly described, in loving detail, serving as a reminder that abstract notions like ‘human rights’ and ‘development’ have real human consequences.”
–Hillary J. Haldane, co-author of Applying Anthropology to Gender-Based Violence: Global Responses, Local Practices

“Karin Friederic’s beautifully rendered ethnography on gender violence breaks new ground. Through intimate storytelling only made possible by her two decades of fieldwork and activism in La Colinas, Ecuador, she reveals how supposedly universal human rights discourses unfold in sharply contradictory ways in the lives of real women.” 
–Sarah J. Hautzinger, author of Violence in the City of Women: Police and Batterers in Bahia, Brazil