Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide by Alexander Laban Hinton, Kenneth Roth

By Alexander Laban Hinton, Kenneth Roth

Genocide is among the such a lot urgent matters that confronts us at the present time. Its demise toll is impressive: over 100 million lifeless. as a result of their intimate adventure within the groups the place genocide happens, anthropologists are uniquely located to give an explanation for how and why this mass annihilation happens and the kinds of devastation genocide factors. This floor breaking e-book, the 1st selection of unique essays on genocide to be released in anthropology, explores a variety of situations, together with Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda, and Bosnia.

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Tutsis therefore shared racial characteristics that enabled them to be more effective leaders than the allegedly racially inferior Hutus, who were supposedly of Bantu stock. In the postcolonial period, this origin myth was reinvented by Hutus to argue that the Tutsis were “tricky,” impure foreign invaders who had to be expunged from what was Hutu soil—an image reminiscent of Nazi discourse about Jews. Similarly, in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the s, Serb and Croat historiographers vied to construct historical linkages connecting themselves to Muslims (“converts” and “heretics”) and the territories in which they lived; Muslim scholars, in turn, argued that they were a national group (narod) that shared a way of life, religious beliefs, and legacy of residence on their lands (Bringa , and this volume).

Even more troubling are the instances in which anthropologists—including some of the discipline’s founding figures—have passively stood by while genocide took place, sometimes accepting the dehumanizing metanarratives that legitimate the destruction of victim groups. The very idea of “salvage ethnography” reflects anthropology’s ambivalent relation to genocide. ” On the other, many of these same scholars took an active role in preserving and documenting the cultural life of these disappearing groups.

Thus, modernity and genocide both involve the essentialization of difference, but the ways in which such differences are constructed, manufactured, and viewed may vary considerably across time and place. Moreover, the form and experience of genocidal violence is variably mediated by local knowledge. These two key dimensions of genocide, modernity and the local, are exemplified by the many “ideological genocides” that have plagued the twentieth century (Smith ). In Nazi Germany and Cambodia, for example, genocide was structured by metanarratives of modernity—social engineering, progress, rationality, the elimination of the impure—and related sets of binary oppositions, including: us/them good/evil progress/degeneration       order/chaos belonging/alien purity/contamination Nevertheless, the meaning of such conceptual categories took on distinct local forms.

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