Understanding Massacre: Exploring the Genocidal Process (the Holocaust - Bosnia - Rwanda)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
CISAC Conference Room
  • Jacques Semelin
How is it possible to make sense out of the socio-political process that sometimes leads to extreme violence, ethnic cleansing and genocide? This presentation shows that beyond the "singularity" debate, it is possible to compare cases while respecting their specificity.

Secondly, the presentation uses multidisciplinary approach, relying not only on contemporary history, but also on social psychology and political science.  

Based on the seminal distinction between massacre and genocide, this study identifies the main steps of a general process of destruction, both rational and irrational, made of a "delusional rationality". It describes a dynamic structural model with, at its core, the matrix of an imaginary construct which, according to its fears, resentments and utopias, shapes the social body, razing and eliminating “the enemy”. The presentation argues for a model with multiple variables, the act of massacre being determined both by local parameters and the international context, identifying the main stages that can lead to a genocidal process, without presupposing any historical fatality, and explaining how ordinary people can become perpetrators.