Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide

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9781850658177: Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide
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How can we comprehend the sociopolitical processes that give rise to extreme violence, ethnic cleansing, or genocide? A major breakthrough in comparative analysis, Purify and Destroy demonstrates that it is indeed possible to compare the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina while respecting the specificities of each appalling phenomenon. Jacques Semelin achieves this, in part, by leading his readers through the three examples simultaneously, the unraveling of which sometimes converges but most often diverges.

Semelin's method is multidisciplinary, relying not only on contemporary history but also on social psychology and political science. Based on the seminal distinction between massacre and genocide, Purify and Destroy identifies the main steps of a general process of destruction, both rational and irrational, born of what Semelin terms "delusional rationality." He describes a dynamic structural model with, at its core, the matrix of a social imaginaire that, responding to fears, resentments, and utopias, carves and recarves the social body by eliminating "the enemy." Semelin identifies the main stages that can lead to a genocidal process and explains how ordinary people can become perpetrators. He develops an intellectual framework to analyze the entire spectrum of mass violence, including terrorism, in the twentieth century and before. Strongly critical of today's political instrumentalization of the "genocide" notion, Semelin urges genocide research to stand back from legal and normative definitions and come of age as a discipline in its own right in the social sciences.

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About the Author:

Jacques Semelin is professor of political science and research director at CERI-CNRS in Paris. After having studied civil resistance within Nazi Europe, he developed comparative genocide research and is now exploring processes of reconciliation and prevention. His previously published book in English is Unarmed Against Hitler: Civil Resistance in Europe, 1939-1943, and he is founder of the Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence.

Review:

This book is a major accomplishment in the study of genocide. Semelin explores the deep cause, specific triggers, political and international context, dynamics of implementation, nature of killing, and political uses of genocide as a modern phenomenon. (Omer Bartov, Brown University, and author of Mirrors of Destruction: War, Genocide, and Modern Identity)

[An] outstanding contribution to the field of genocide studies. (Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed International Affairs)

[A] must-read for those who want to seriously engage the problem of genocide and massacre in rigorous and systematic fashion. (Eric A. Heinze Political Science Quarterly)

This important study is well worth the effort. (Robert Melson Holocaust and Genocide Studies)

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780231142830: Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide (The CERI Series in Comparative Politics and International Studies)

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ISBN 10:  0231142838 ISBN 13:  9780231142830
Publisher: Columbia University Press, 2009
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9780231142823: Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide (The CERI Series in Comparative Politics and International Studies)

Columb..., 2007
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9781849043939: Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide

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