Kevin Lewis O'Neill
This article explores the relationship between anthropology and genocide. Anthropology is the study of culture — the attitudes, behaviours, and practices that constitute a given community. The anthropology of genocide lends analytical clarity and empirical rigour to a range of issues, including truth, memory, and representation in post-genocidal spaces. Anthropology's growing interest in genocide has a number of roots, including a continued interest in both modernity and globalization as well as violence and terror; a shift from small village studies to research that examine the state-level dynamics in situations of upheaval, flux, and violence; and a greater commitment to reflexivity, historicity, and engaged anthropology. The formation of anthropological questions relating to genocide studies builds from several other intellectual developments such as critical assessments of ethnography, nationalism, violence, and refugees, but nonetheless continues to extend far beyond these issues in rather creative and thought-provoking ways.
Holocaust survivor and witness accounts began long before the Second World War ended. Diaries, journals, letters, notes hidden, buried, and stuffed into jars or between floor boards were mostly lost and destroyed, but those that have been recovered express desperation to tell, to document, to bear witness, and to commemorate. This article records the oral history of holocaust survivors. Together with the countless thousands of testimonies that would be recorded during the next sixty years, these eyewitness accounts would change the face of research and education, not only in the field of Holocaust studies but across academic boundaries. Together with the countless thousands of testimonies that would be recorded during the next sixty years, these eyewitness accounts would change the face of research and education, not only in the field of Holocaust studies but across academic boundaries. The second half of the twentieth century saw a renewed interest in holocaust narratives.
This article examines genocide in the Central and late Medieval Europe. The existence of peoples in Europe in the central and later Middle Ages reflected the facts of power: for contemporaries, ethnic communities were axiomatically political ones. Where the interactions of different peoples were most intensive, stress-laden, and ideologically and politically charged, acts of ethnic destruction were anticipated, and in some quarters sought most keenly. Outright ethnic destruction was most likely to occur where political subjugation was reinforced by fundamental religious difference. Pagans, Muslims, and Jews, but also, in an age of sharpened conceptions of religious orthodoxy, adherents of false forms of Christianity, were singled out for extreme solutions. For the rest, the history of this long period is partly one of how, through more intensive and precisely defined interactions, different imagined ethnic groups evolved forms of coexistence and mutual accommodation.
Nicholas A. Robins
This article explores the genocides of conquest and colonization in Latin America, highlighting the shortcomings of conventional definitions of genocide. According to some interpretations of the 1948 UN Convention on genocide, it is possible to have a ‘genocide’ free of death. Actions causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group are legally considered genocide, yet can be interpreted as not necessarily involving mass killing even when the object is the destruction of a group. Likewise, although in a broader intellectual context, deliberate cultural destruction, or ethnocide, and the deliberate elimination of languages, or linguicide, are also often considered genocide. On the other hand, the unintended extinction or near extinction of a people from disease, a literal genocide and what could also be termed ‘collateral genocide’, is not considered genocide according to the UN Convention.
James E. Fraser
This article examines the concept of genocide in early Medieval Europe, looking at Britain and Ireland. Scholars have good reason to baulk at the application of a term like genocide, with all its twentieth-century moral and legal baggage, to early medieval episodes of violence, depopulation, and displacement which would otherwise seem to meet the criteria for genocide enumerated in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Preamble ‘that at all periods of history, genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity’. This article suggests that Britain and Ireland are not excluded from such an assertion in that period. The evidence shows that concepts of ethnic obliteration, and what constituted it, were variable, depending upon class and social standing, and extended well beyond the comparatively narrow confines of actual physical slaughter.
One can define ethnic cleansing as a mass-scale, violent, and permanent removal of an ethnically defined group from one territory to a perceived external homeland. Deportations within a state were special in this regard because there was no vision of an external territory to which the cleansed population would be sent. It still needs to be explored why some states treated deported minorities worse than other states treated their supposed external enemies. This article examines the origins and three preconditions of ethnic cleansing: modern nationalism, the concept of the modern nation-state, and the development of population policy. It also discusses four major periods of ethnic cleansing: 1912–1925, ethnic cleansing under the hegemony of Nazi Germany (1938–1944), ethnic cleansing and the postwar order in Europe (1944–1948), and ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia (1991–1995).
This article compares ethnic cleansing with genocide. Since the 1990s, ethnic cleansing has become one of the most widely known forms of violence directed against groups. Ethnic cleansing is related to genocide, but ethnic cleansing is focused more closely than genocide on geography and on forced removal of ethnic or related groups from particular areas. The greatest overlap between ethnic cleansing and genocide takes place when forced removal of population leads to a group's destruction. Ethnic cleansing is often a policy carried out by strong states to mould the population map, especially of border zones, but the breakup of such states also generates power struggles that can lead to ethnic cleansing. Another paradox is that partition or division of ethnically or religiously mixed states has been identified both as a cause of ethnic cleansing and as a possible remedy for ethnic cleansing.
A. Dirk Moses and Dan Stone
This article examines the historical relationship between biopolitics, eugenics, racial hygiene, and genocide globally in this period. It describes that as the historiography of eugenics has broadened out from its Anglo-American core to an international and transnational perspective, so the focus of genocide studies has shifted from the Holocaust as the paradigmatic case to other, often extra-European, genocides. Furthermore, this article examines various policy modalities developed to solve the “problem” of minority and “useless” populations. It shows that mixed-race children pose particular challenges to eugenicists in thrall to ideals of cultural homogeneity, in which case eliminationist policies of assimilation, absorption, or sterilization might be pursued. It suggests that these policies could escalate in a genocidal direction.
This article discusses the role that eugenics plays in Jewish life, especially in shaping how Jews confronted the world, and engages Jewish and non-Jewish researchers alike. It discusses the socioeconomic conditions in which Jews lived as it had specific eugenic consequences. It also describes the breeding problems that occupy an important role in Jewish life. The rationale of eugenics in Jewish life depends on the extent to which social, political, religious, or cultural distinctiveness is considered to reflect biological racial factors. This article further draws comparison between old and new eugenics and states that new eugenics depends on screening healthy carriers, prenatal diagnosis, and selective determination of affected fetuses. It ends with the discussion of the importance of Jewish tradition in the continuation of Jewish culture and mentions that reproduction and eugenics has played a significant role in core Jewish practices and debates.
This article presents two scenarios that might have a huge influence for the prospects of genocide in the future: the carrying capacity of the planet and global warming. The key point about the pursuit of this theme is that the disruptive potential of climate change, whether writ small in terms of the single state, or writ large in terms of the international system, is entirely exponential. It also hints the necessity for a paradigmatic shift in the relationship not only to each other but to the precious planet if people are to avoid not simply genocide but omnicide. For those who would seek to avoid genocide in the twenty-first century, the task cannot somehow be reduced to Lemkin's law. The phenomenon cannot be contained within this box: it is too fundamental a by-product of a more general dysfunction, not to say, even as it transmutes into persistent post-genocide.
Elisa von Joeden‐Forgey
This article aims to shows that a consideration of gender is crucial to the understanding of the crime of genocide, because genocide is an historical process that is, at its core, about group reproduction. The perpetrators must either annul reproduction within the group or appropriate the progeny in order to destroy the group in the long run. While the perpetrators' ultimate aim is the material destruction of the target group, the means used to achieve this end tend to target men and women according to their perceived and actual positions within the reproductive process. As part of the killing, then, one finds in all genocides a shared set of tortures involving generative symbols and institutions (reproductive organs, infants and small children, and the bonds that promote family coherence).
Alex de Waal
The modern history of the Horn of Africa is marked by protracted violence. The two powerful states of the region, Ethiopia and Sudan, are hybrid imperial creations from African and European colonialisms. For centuries, the dominant states of the Ethiopian highlands and the Nile Valley have been predators on the peoples of their peripheries, inflicting slavery, subjugation, and massacre upon them. The other states of the Horn, Eritrea and Somalia were forged out of resistance to the centres of state power, and each exists insofar as it can dispense violence. This article consists of four sections. The first outlines the key themes. A second part briefly surveys the position of the Horn of Africa within scholarly and legal approaches to genocide. The major part outlines twenty-two episodes of extreme violence, including mass killing and group-targeted repression, over the past half century. The final section draws some general conclusions.
Dominik J. Schaller
This article discusses genocide and mass violence in Africa during the colonial period. While European colonial rule lasted only several decades, it had a profound impact on Africa. The history of European colonialism in Africa is of unprecedented socio-economic, political, and cultural change, mass violence, and exploitation. Until recently, the historiography of colonialism and genocide has portrayed the Africans as passive and apathetic victims of European power and violence. But Africa did not degenerate into a graveyard because of the Europeans' attempt to transform the continent and its inhabitants according to their ideas. European colonialism did not succeed in completely destroying African cultures and identities. Africans always found ways to preserve their cultures and to reconstitute their social organizations, however totalitarian and coercive the colonizers' policies and fantasies about absolute power were confirmed.
This article explores the history of genocide by looking at collective memories, from the point of view of Western culture. Western culture is suffused with autobiographies, especially with traumatic life narratives about the legacies of abusive childhoods. For the individual victims of genocide, traumatic memories cannot be escaped; for societies, genocide has profound effects that are immediately felt and that people are exhorted never to forget. The discussion shows how genocide is bound up with memory, on an individual level of trauma and on a collective level in terms of the creation of stereotypes, prejudice, and post-genocide politics. Despite the risks of perpetuating old divisions or reopening unhealed wounds, grappling with memory remains essential in order to remind the victims that they are not the worthless or less than human beings that their tormentors have portrayed them as such.
Between 1990 and 2010, the political map of the Balkans and Caucasus changed as Communist regimes collapsed and border disputes escalated. Some of the most bitter conflicts were in areas where there were mixed populations with large ‘minority’ populations that did not recognize potential changes in their borders (Russians in Chechnya or Serbs in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo). Religious identities, heavily repressed during the Communist era, became a defining part of the rejection of that system. A revival of militant Islamism after the success of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran in 1979 radicalized politics in both the Balkans and the Caucasus. In the former Yugoslavia, Serb nationalists claimed that they were fighting against Islamic encroachment, which became effectively a self-fulfilling prophecy after 11 September 2001. Successionists and politicians eager to redraw boundaries cynically exploited the idea of an ideological purpose and traditional identities under threat to motivate and legitimize armed resistance.
This article considers the development of the genocide in the context of wider Ottoman demographic policies and late Ottoman history. World War I saw the almost complete annihilation of the Ottoman Armenians. The Armenian deportations were not the result of an Armenian rebellion. On the contrary, Armenians were deported when no danger of outside interference existed. Thus Armenians near front lines were often slaughtered on the spot and not deported. The deportations were not a security measure against rebellions but depended on their absence. The initial deportations resembled earlier measures against Greeks, Nestorians, and Zionists. The assimilation of Armenian children and women overwhelmed the state's resources and local Muslim initiative became decisive. Nevertheless, far too many Armenians still survived and reached the lower Euphrates. Armenian resilience and a series of survival strategies as well as undercover relief work made this survival possible.
Hans van Wees
This article examines genocide in the ancient world, by examining European literature and comparing the atrocities committed during the events of the Trojan War. The massacre of all Troy's male inhabitants and the enslavement of its women and children were fictional, but it had many counterparts in ancient history. It was almost the normative form of genocide in ancient Greece and some other parts of the ancient world, although mass enslavements and mass executions which made no distinctions of gender or age are also widely attested. The Greeks' reasons for treating the Trojans so brutally were typical of the motivations for genocide in antiquity: it was usually an act of ‘conspicuous destruction’, a display of force designed to assert the power and status of the perpetrator in the face of a perceived challenge. Ancient genocide sometimes had a religious dimension.
William A. Schabas
This article discusses genocide as a legal concept. The crime of genocide has been incorporated within the national legal systems of many countries, where national legislators have imposed their own views on the term, some of them varying slightly or even considerably from the established international definition. The term itself was invented by a lawyer, Raphael Lemkin. He intended to fill a gap in international law, as it then stood in the final days of the Second World War. Over the years, the limited definition of genocide in the 1948 Genocide Convention has provoked much criticism and many proposals for reform. But by the 1990s, when international criminal law went through a period of stunning developments, it was the atrophied concept of crimes against humanity that emerged as the best legal tool to address atrocities.
Mass Deportations, Ethnic Cleansing, and Genocidal Politics in the Later Russian Empire and the USSR
Between the middle of the nineteenth century and the middle of the twentieth, the immense areas of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union saw some extreme forms of state violence, though of course, in very different historical contexts. This article addresses the main specificities of the great episodes of deportation and ethnic cleansing in the later Russian Empire and in the Soviet Union, as well as an immense event that remained completely hidden for more than half a century, the ‘man-made famines’ of the early 1930s. It also discusses the applicability or otherwise of the word ‘genocide’ to the Ukrainian famine of 1932–3 and the deportation of the ‘punished peoples’ from 1941–4.
Alex J. Bellamy
This article examines the role that military intervention can play in ending genocide and the political, moral, and legal debates that surround it. The first section briefly examines how genocides have ended since the beginning of the twentieth century, and explores the place of military intervention by external powers. The second section examines whether there is a moral and/or legal duty to intervene to end genocide. The third section considers the reasons why states intervene only infrequently to put an end to genocide despite their rhetorical commitments. Historically, once started, genocides tend to end with either the military defeat of the perpetrators or the suppression of the victim groups. Only military force can directly prevent genocidal killing, stand between perpetrators and their intended victims, and protect the delivery of lifesaving aid. But its use entails risks for all parties and does not necessarily resolve the underlying conflict.