Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide (The CERI Series in Comparative Politics and International Studies)
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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.
struggle to control epidemics, claiming that ‘parasites (and typhus) are the main scourges assailing socialism’. He is pleased that ‘Russian cities have been cleansed of that whiteguard vermin’.60 Pol Pot and his friends were generally less verbose than Lenin but their declarations are similar. Thus notes the Australian historian David Chandler, author of a remarkable study on the notorious Toul Sleng prison in Phnom Penh. Pol Pot believed that Cambodia’s internal enemies were intrinsically
the two world wars.7 A member of the Communist Party central committee, he was expelled in 1968 because of nationalism directed against the Kosovo Albanians. But this expulsion did not in any way lead to his renouncing his political convictions. When he entered the Serbian INFLAMMATORY DISCOURSE TO SACRIFICIAL VIOLENCE 57 Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade in 1977, the writer drew attention to himself once again through his defence of the Serbian people. It was here that he made his
Croatia, which were accused of politically dominating Serbia, and against Yugoslavia’s federal system as a whole as being responsible for the ‘discrimination’ to which Serbs within the federation were subjected. The memorandum was published on 24 September 1986 in a Belgrade newspaper, and was widely condemned by the political leaders of the time. But one segment of opinion saw some of its fears justified by the members of the prestigious institution. A politician still relatively unknown to the
therefore important to study the fairy tales, myths, rumours, and memories specific to a culture in order to understand massacres that have been committed within it. It is this plunge into the imaginary that will give historical and emotional resonance to 60 PURIFY AND DESTROY the ideological discourse. In a way the intellectual’s job is to make something new out of something old, that is to transpose ancient themes on to a new ideological grid. This seems to be the only really effective way
national church institution dared to come to his support or to express even the mildest opposition to violence against Jews.’40 Driven to resign by his hierarchy,he committed suicide in January 1934. The Protestant and Catholic Churches also kept silent at the moment the discriminatory Nuremberg laws were published, with the exception of the Catholic region of Aachen and some protests from evangelical pastors in Speyer. The most forceful institutional speech against Nazism expressed by the