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Keywords:

  • evil;
  • ethics;
  • Primo Levi;
  • Holocaust;
  • Stockholm Syndrome;
  • women;
  • character;
  • feminism;
  • oppression;
  • Patricia Hearst;
  • slavery

Gray zones, which develop wherever oppression is severe and lasting, are inhabited by victims of evil who become complicit in perpetrating on others the evils that threaten to engulf themselves. Women, who have inhabited many gray zones, present challenges for feminist theorists, who have long struggled with how resistance is possible under coercive institutions. Building on Primo Levi's reflections on the gray zone in Nazi death camps and ghettos, this essay argues that resistance is sometimes possible, although outsiders are rarely, if ever, in a position to judge when. It also raises questions about the adequacy of ordinary moral concepts to mark the distinctions that would be helpful for thinking about how to respond in a gray zone.