The specter of genocide : mass murder in historical perspective /

Other Authors: Gellately, Robert, 1943-, Kiernan, Ben.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Cambridge University Press, 2003.
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Review by Choice Review

Kiernan (director, Genocide Studies Center, Yale Univ.) and Gellately (Holocaust history, Clark Univ.) have assembled a stellar group of academics to produce a first-rate book usefully balanced between theory and case studies and focusing on the 55 years since the UN genocide convention was adopted. Chapters come from 17 internationally respected scholars, about two-thirds from the US; their 15 chapters are, in turn, grouped into sections dealing with genocide and modernity, indigenous people and colonial issues, the two World Wars, and genocide and mass murder since WW II. All of the essays are good; many are excellent. War, revolution, and the absence of effective, responsive means of political expression stand out as common denominators in the various chapters, most of which are compressed into 15-25 pages. In some cases (e.g., Rwanda, Bosnia), the active participation of local inhabitants in mass killings was essential. Most chapters focus on a single country, the major exceptions being a comparison between Rwanda and Ethiopia, and the former Yugoslavia; East Timor is the only state examined twice (first when occupied by Indonesian forces, second when these troops withdrew). ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. C. E. Welch University at Buffalo, SUNY

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

While this is definitely a collection of distinguished scholars writing for other scholars, the editors, historians at Clark and Yale respectively, bring together a cogent group of perspectives on the history and causes of mass murder. The University of Minnesota's Eric Weitz makes a persuasive case that the peculiar 20th-century combination of mass society, technology and racist ideologies has made genocide so much easier than in previous centuries that it has become both more pervasive and more destructive, looking to those who engage in it as an easy way out. "Genocides of Indigenous People," by Claremont Graduate University's Elazar Barkan contains many insights on the question of inherited collective guilt, as well as good historical summaries. Of the less theoretical historical narratives, some cover well-trodden ground but with clarity and vigor, including studies of the Holocaust and Yugoslavia. Others present examples of genocide not commonly known, such as the Indonesian slaughter of the population of East Timor and the U.S.-backed government of Guatemala's war against its Mayan population. Particular distinction belongs to the summary of Rwanda, extraordinarily informative for its brevity. In both introduction and afterword, the editors emphasize the necessity of broad but informed definitions of genocide as essential in raising barriers against it. (June) Forecast: While annotations and bibliography serve to guide educated lay readers to more accessible sources, this is not the place for lay readers to begin inquiries, and the book's price definitely aims it toward libraries. Still, as a distillation of the most recent thinking, it can be recommended as a companion to classic titles like Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Given the quality of such books as Samantha Power's Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide, an anthology on the subject must be comprehensive and distinguished to be recommended. While Power's book concerns the problem of formulating a policy response to this horrific crime, this edited volume provides a solid historical context. With these selections, Gellately (Strassler Family Chair for the Study of Holocaust History, Clark Univ.) and Kiernan (Whitney Griswold Professor of History & director, Genocide Studies Program, Yale Univ.) help us to understand better the "new synthesis...of warfare, race, and revolution," starting in World War I with the Turkish genocide of Armenians. Even this assertion is not without controversy. For example, Elizar Barkan maintains that "inordinately diverse" colonial experiences make it impossible to dismiss colonialism as inherently genocidal and takes to task the use of genocide to describe the experience of indigenous North American peoples. Otherwise, most of the chapters reflect a set of recurring variables, such as a level of "mass participation" (Rwanda), idealization of a "peasant culture" (Germany), and the demands of a "total war"( Armenia). In addition, the contributors examine less well known episodes of mass killing, such as the crimes of imperial Japan and those of the Guatemalan armed forces during the early 1980s. A concluding chapter highlights the importance of historical research in clarifying our understanding of genocide. Recommended for larger public and all academic libraries.-Zachary T. Irwin, Sch. of Humanities & Social Science, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.