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Scott StrausMaking and Unmaking Nations: War, Leadership and Genocide in Modern Africa

Cornell University Press, 2015

by Kelly McFall on June 9, 2015

Scott Straus

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Who, in the field of genocide studies, hasn't at least once used the phrase "The century of genocide?"  Books carry the title, journalists quote it in interviews and undergrads adopt it.

There's nothing wrong with the phrase, as far as it goes.  But, as Scott Straus points out, conceptualizing the century in that way masks a fundamental truth about the period–that there were many more crises that could have led to genocide but which stopped short than there were actual genocides.

And this is a problem for the academic study of genocide.   For if that discipline is at least in part attempting to understand what causes genocides and how to prevent them, ignoring the dog that didn't bark is a serious challenge.

This is the point Straus makes in his wonderful new book Making and Unmaking Nations:  War, Leadership and Genocide in Modern Africa (Cornell University Press, 2015).  A political scientist, Straus looks to address two methodological issues in understanding genocide.  The first is the problem of  the dog that didn't bark.  The second is the fact that genocide studies often compares genocides that occurs in dramatically different contexts and cultures.

The result is a wonderfully rich and thought-provoking study.  It's one that all genocide scholars will need to wrestle with.  And, with Straus a former journalist, non-specialists will find it readable and interesting as well.

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Emily KuriloffContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Third Reich: History, Memory, Tradition

June 2, 2015

In her new book, Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Third Reich: History, Memory, Tradition (Routledge, 2013), Emily Kuriloff details a dimension of psychoanalytic history that has never been so extensively documented: The impact of the Shoah on the not only the psychoanalysts who were directly involved, but also the aftershocks to later generations of analysts and the […]

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Juergen Matthaus, Jochen Boehler, and Klaus-Michael MallmannWar, Pacification and Mass Murder, 1939: The Einsatzgruppen in Poland

May 18, 2015

Historians have spent the last two decades detailing and explaining the actions of the Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet Union.  We now know much more than we used to about the escalation of violence in 1941 and the so-called "Holocaust by Bullets." The actions of the Einsatzgruppen in Poland, in contrast, are less well known.  But […]

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Fatma Muge GocekDenial of Violence: Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence against the Armenians 1789-2009

May 11, 2015

Adolf Hitler famously (and probably) said in a speech to his military leaders "Who, after all, speaks to-day of the annihilation of the Armenians?"  This remark is generally taken to suggest that future generations won't remember current atrocities, so there's no reason not to commit them.  The implication is that memory has something like an […]

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John-Paul Himka and Joanna Beata MichlicBringing the Dark Past to Light: The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe

April 29, 2015

I'll be leaving soon to take students on a European travel course. During the three weeks we'll be gone, in addition to cathedrals, museums and castles, they'll visit Auschwitz, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and a variety of other Holocaust related sights.  And I'll ask them to think about what we can […]

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Daniel FeiersteinGenocide as Social Practice: Reorganizing Society under the Nazis and Argentina’s Military Juntas

April 10, 2015

So I should start out with a confession. I don't know much about the  history of Argentina (I said something similar about Guatemala a year or so ago on the program).  And I don't think it would have occurred to me to do a comparative study Argentina and Nazi Germany.  Fortunately, Daniel Feierstein was more […]

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Abdelwahab El-AffendiGenocidal Nightmares: Narratives of Insecurity and the Logic of Mass Atrocities

March 25, 2015

Genocide studies is one of the few academic fields with which I'm acquainted which is truly interdisciplinary in approach and composition.  Today's guest Abdelwahab El-Affendi, and the book he has edited, Genocidal Nightmares: Narratives of Insecurity and the Logic of Mass Atrocities (Bloomsbury Academic 2014), is an excellent example of how this works out in […]

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Ervin StaubOvercoming Evil: Genocide, Violent Conflict and Terrorism

March 14, 2015

After "Schindler's List," it became customary for my students, and I, to repeat the slogan "Never Again."  We did so seriously, with solemn expressions on our faces and intensity in our voices. But, if I'm being honest, I also uttered this slogan with some trepidation.  For, while I believed absolutely in the necessity of such […]

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Alon ConfinoA World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide

March 3, 2015

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] Alon Confino’s A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide (Yale University Press, 2014) begins with a vivid and devastating scene in the small German town of Fürth on November 10, 1938: Jews are forced from their homes and assembled in the main square.  Many are made […]

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Robert J. DoniaRadovan Karadžič: Architect of the Bosnian Genocide

February 6, 2015

As a graduate student at Ohio State in the early 1990s, I remember watching the collapse of Yugoslavia on the news almost every night and reading about it in the newspaper the next day.  The first genocidal conflict covered in real time, dozens of reporters covered the war from the front lines or from a […]

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