Steven L. JacobsLemkin on Genocide

Lexington Books, 2012

by Kelly McFall on April 12, 2014

Steven L. Jacobs

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It’s hard to overestimate the role of Raphael Lemkin in calling the world’s attention to the crime of genocide.  But for decades his name languished, as scholars and the broader public devoted their time and attention to other people and other things.

In the past few years, this has changed. We now have a greater understanding of Lemkin’s role in pushing the UN to write and pass the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.  Moreover, researchers have a newfound appreciation for the depth and insights of his research.  Genocide scholars talk about their field experiencing a ‘return to Lemkin.’

It seems an appropriate time, then to reexamine Lemkin’s ideas and career.  We’ll do so in a special two-part series of interviews with scholars who have edited and published Lemkin’s writings.  Later this month, I’ll post an interview with Donna Lee Frieze, who has meticulously edited Lemkin’s unpublished autobiography, Totally Unofficial.

First, however, I’ll talk with Steven L. Jacobs.  Steve recently published a carefully edited and annotated edition of Lemkin’s writings about the history and nature of genocide, simply titled Lemkin on Genocide (Lexington Books, 2012).  This work was written during the 1940s, but never published.  Through it, we gain a new appreciation for the depth of Lemkin’s theoretical understanding and the breadth of his research.  In addition, reading Jacob’s book provides us a richer sense of how Lemkin fit into the ideological currents of his time.  In editing this work, Steve has done a great service to all those interested in genocide.


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