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The field of genocide studies is surprisingly young.  As Sam Totten and I discussed in an interview earlier this year, it dates back to the late 1980s or early 1990s.  That makes the field about 25 years old.  That’s about the time it takes for a generation of scholars to lay out their ideas and to train new researchers to follow in their footsteps.  And, as it usually goes, that new generation often takes issue with past assumptions and conclusions.

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that a variety of debates have emerged in the past decade.  Scholars have clashed over the canon of genocide studies, about the degree to which the Holocaust should be viewed as an ideal type against which other genocides are measured, over the proper balance between academic research and activism and many other issues.

Joyce Apsel and Ernesto Verdeja have taken this opportunity to compile a survey of the state of the field at this contested time.  Their book Genocide Matters:  Ongoing Issues and Emerging Perspectives (Routledge, 2013) offers its contributors a chance to chart the future course of the field.  And it offers its readers the opportunity to engage these debates themselves.

I spoke with Ernesto about all of this in today’s interview,  which was recorded earlier this fall.  He’s an engaging speaker with lots to say on the topic.  I hope you enjoy the interview.

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Thierry CruvellierThe Master of Confessions: The Making of a Khmer Rouge Torturer

October 31, 2014

What is justice for a man who supervised the interrogation and killing of thousands?  Especially a man who now claims to be a Christian and to be, at least in some ways and cases, repentant for his crimes? Thierry Cruvellier has written a fascinating book about the trial of ‘Duch’ the director of the S-21 [...]

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Deborah MayersenOn the Path to Genocide: Armenia and Rwanda Reexamined

September 23, 2014

I live and work in the state of Kansas in the US.  We think of ourselves as living in tornado alley and orient our schedules in the spring around the weather report.  Earthquakes are something that happen somewhere else. Recently, however, our southern neighbor, Oklahoma, has been rocked repeatedly by minor earthquakes.  Why this is [...]

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In 1994 I was in graduate school, trying hard to juggle teaching, getting started on my dissertation and having something of a real life. The real life part suffered most of all.  But every once in a while, the world around me would startle me out of my cave and remind me that life was [...]

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Martin ShawGenocide and International Relations: Changing Patterns in the Transitions of the Late Modern World

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Works in the field of genocide studies tend to fall into one of a few camps.  Some are emotional and personal.  Others are historical and narrative.  Still others are intentionally activist and aimed at changing policy or decisions. Martin Shaw‘s works fit into a fourth category.  A historical sociologist, Shaw brings the very best of [...]

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Samuel TottenGenocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains of Sudan

July 18, 2014

Most of the authors I’ve interviewed for this show have addressed episodes in the past, campaigns of mass violence that occurred long ago, often well-before the author was born. Today’s show is different. In his book Genocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains of Sudan (Transaction Publishers, 2012), Samuel Totten addresses the violence against the people of the Nuba Mountains [...]

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Michael BryantEyewitness to Genocide: The Operation Reinhard Death Camp Trials, 1955-1966

July 15, 2014

My marginal comment, recorded at the end of the chapter on the Belzec trial in Michael Bryant‘s fine new book Eyewitness to Genocide: The Operation Reinhard Death Camp Trials, 1955-1966 (University of Tennessee Press, 2014), is simple:  ”!!!!”  Text speak, to be sure, but it conveys the surprise I felt. One can ask many questions about [...]

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Wendy LowerHitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields

July 7, 2014

It seems quite reasonable to wonder if there’s anything more to learn about the Holocaust.  Scholars from a variety of disciplines have been researching and writing about the subject for decades.  A simple search for “Holocaust” on Amazon turns up a stunning 27,642 results.  How can there still be uncovered terrain? Wendy Lower shows it [...]

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Benjamin LiebermanRemaking Identities: God, Nation and Race in World History

June 27, 2014

What do you say to someone who suggests that genocide is not just destructive, but constructive? This is the basic theme of Benjamin Lieberman‘s excellent new book Remaking Identities:  God, Nation and Race in World History (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013). The book surveys two thousand years of history to explain how people have used violence to reconstruct identities. [...]

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Mark LeveneThe Crisis of Genocide: 2 Vols. Devastation: The European Rimlands, 1912-1938; Annihilation: The European Rimlands, 1938-1953

June 3, 2014

I imagine one of the greatest compliments an author of an historical monograph can receive is to hear that his or her book changed the way a subject is taught. I will do just that after reading Mark Levene‘s new two volume work The Crisis of Genocide (2 Vols. Devastation:  The European Rimlands, 1912-1938; Annihilation and [...]

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