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Annihilating Difference

Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide

EDITED BY Alexander Laban Hinton
With a foreword by Kenneth Roth
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 419
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  • Book Info
    Annihilating Difference
    Book Description:

    Genocide is one of the most pressing issues that confronts us today. Its death toll is staggering: over one hundred million dead. Because of their intimate experience in the communities where genocide takes place, anthropologists are uniquely positioned to explain how and why this mass annihilation occurs and the types of devastation genocide causes. This ground breaking book, the first collection of original essays on genocide to be published in anthropology, explores a wide range of cases, including Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda, and Bosnia.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92757-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Kenneth Roth

    Anthropologists and human rights activists have not been natural partners. An anthropologist tends to accept a culture as it is. A human rights activist tends to identify injustices in a culture and work to change them. An anthropologist illuminates the differences among cultures. A human rights activist highlights cross-cultural commonality. An anthropologist respects a broad range of value systems that are seen as culturally variable. A human rights activist promotes a particular value system that is seen as universal.

    Yet behind this tension there has always been a potential for partnership. Classic human rights advocacy depends at the outset on...

    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. 1 The Dark Side of Modernity: Toward an Anthropology of Genocide
    (pp. 1-40)
    Alexander Laban Hinton

    As we stand on the edge of the millennium, looking back at modernity’s wake, genocide looms as the Janus face of Western metanarratives of “civilization” and “ progress.”¹ With the rise of the nation-state and its imperialist and modernizing ambitions, tens of millions of “backward” or “savage” indigenous peoples perished from disease, starvation, slave labor, and outright murder. Sixty million others were also annihilated in the twentieth century, often after nation-states embarked upon lethal projects of social engineering intent upon eliminating certain undesirable and “contaminating” elements of the population. The list of victim groups during this “Century of Genocide”² is...


    • 2 Genocide against Indigenous Peoples
      (pp. 43-53)
      David Maybury-Lewis

      It is sad that few of us are surprised when we hear of genocides committed against indigenous peoples. We may be outraged or sickened, but, if we have any knowledge of the grim history of contacts between indigenous peoples and other societies, we are unlikely to be surprised. The reason is that the defining characteristic of indigenous peoples is not simply, as is often supposed, that they were “there” (wherever they are) first. Such a definition works well enough in the Americas or Australia, but is unsatisfactory in Africa and Eurasia. There, populations have eddied backward and forward over given...

    • 3 Confronting Genocide and Ethnocide of Indigenous Peoples: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Definition, Intervention, Prevention, and Advocacy
      (pp. 54-92)
      Samuel Totten, William S. Parsons and Robert K. Hitchcock

      The plight of indigenous peoples has been underscored by what one analyst has characterized as “the often genocidal process of colonization and the long history of land dispossession” (Burger 1987:5). Time and again, various indigenous groups have seen their lands, cultures, and their very lives encroached upon, if not outright destroyed (Chalk and Jonassohn 1990:194–222, 412–14; Churchill 1997; Hitchcock and Twedt 1997). Indigenous leaders and writers have spoken out strongly on what they believe are genocidal policies aimed at destroying them both physically and culturally (Moody 1988, 1:83–122; Churchill 1997).

      Indigenous peoples are often seen, as Fein...


    • 4 Justifying Genocide: Archaeology and the Construction of Difference
      (pp. 95-116)
      Bettina Arnold

      It is one of the terrible ironies of the systematic extermination of one people by another that its justification is considered necessary. As Norman Cohn has argued, “[H]owever narrow, materialistic, or downright criminal their own motives may be, such men cannot operate without an ideology behind them. At least, when operating collectively, they need an ideology to legitimate their behavior, for without it they would have to see themselves and one another as what they really are—common thieves and murderers. And that apparently is something which even they cannot bear” (Leo Kuper [1981:84] quoting Norman Cohn [1967:263–64]. Obviously...

    • 5 Scientific Racism in Service of the Reich: German Anthropologists in the Nazi Era
      (pp. 117-134)
      Gretchen E. Schafft

      Almost sixty years after the invasion of Poland by the Nazis in World War II, an old man stands shaking by his door, afraid to meet the anthropologists who have come to talk to him. He says he does not have anything to tell; he was sick, in the hospital at the time. Another villager is not hesitant and tells of the time of the Nazi occupation of Poland when anthropologists came into the town under SS guard, gave the townspeople a time to appear at the priest’s house, and examined them from head to foot. (Few Jews remained in...


    • 6 The Cultural Face of Terror in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994
      (pp. 137-178)
      Christopher C. Taylor

      For the past fifteen years anthropology’s central concept, the concept of culture, has come under withering attack. Some have criticized its use as overly reifying. Others claim that no human group has ever been characterized by a single coherent set of norms, beliefs, and attitudes. Still others view the notion of culture as excessively rule-oriented and deterministic—too much of a “cookie-cutter” and as such insufficiently sensitive to the expression of diverse human agencies. There are no such things as rules, say the latter, only contested meanings and negotiated realities arrived at, and only ephemerally, in the clash of conflicting...

    • 7 Dance, Music, and the Nature of Terror in Democratic Kampuchea
      (pp. 179-193)
      Toni Shapiro-Phim

      On a wooden platform in front of hundreds of weak, emaciated people, dancers dressed in loose tops and trousers, checkered scarves around their necks or waists, dark caps on their heads, and rubber tire sandals on their feet, stand in formation. Armed Khmer Rouge soldiers patrol around the silent audience. The dancers then proceed to march—walking in unison, arms swinging in rhythm with their legs—in choreographed linear and circular patterns. Wooden guns in hand, the performers dance to a song that makes explicit reference toAngkar, the Khmer Rouge revolutionary organization:

      We are young men and women


  10. 8 Averted Gaze: Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1992–1995
    (pp. 194-226)
    Tone Bringa

    This chapter examines some of the social and political structures that converged in the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H) and created a framework that enabled certain people to commit crimes against humanity at the end of the twentieth century in Europe. It argues that the particular kind of personalized violence directed toward individuals because they belonged to, or were identified with, a specific nationality or ethnic group was the expression of a politically organized attempt at radically redefining categories of belonging.¹ This implied the redrawing of boundaries of exclusion/inclusion (that is, excluding certain people with their knowledge and their skills from...


    • 9 Archives of Violence: The Holocaust and the German Politics of Memory
      (pp. 229-271)
      Uli Linke

      This essay is an attempt to understand the transformative potential of public memory. My focus is on the modalities of symbolic violence in German culture after 1945 and their historical nexus with Nazism and genocide. My research suggests that German public memory is infused with visions of corporeal violence that have persisted in a more or less unbroken trajectory from the Third Reich until today. In postwar West Germany, Nazism and the murder of Jews are contested and highly charged domains of cultural reproduction. The horror of the past inspires an intense fascination that generates both desire and repulsion. In...

    • 10 Aftermaths of Genocide: Cambodian Villagers
      (pp. 272-291)
      May Ebihara and Judy Ledgerwood

      This paper explores some effects of the massive mortality rate that Cambodia sustained in the 1970s, especially during the regime of Democratic Kampuchea (DK) under Pol Pot. It focuses in particular on a Khmer peasant village of rice cultivators, Svay, that Ebihara originally studied in 1959–60 and that she and Ledgerwood revisited several times through the 1990s.¹ Genocide, coupled with the Khmer Rouge regime’s attempt to create a revolutionary new society though simultaneous destruction of customary social institutions, had dramatic repercussions on village life even after Pol Pot was routed in 1979. Under subsequent regimes over the past two...

    • 11 Terror, Grief, and Recovery: Genocidal Trauma in a Mayan Village in Guatemala
      (pp. 292-309)
      Beatriz Manz

      In the hot, humid afternoon of Saturday, February 13, 1982, a long column of soldiers moved with an angry, deliberate gait down a muddy path toward Santa Maria Tzejá, a small, isolated village in the rain forest of northern Guatemala. As the troops approached, the terrified inhabitants scattered in every direction into the surrounding forest, having heard that the military had massacred the people of a nearby village two days before. When the military unit arrived, it found an eerily quiet, deserted community. Only one woman inexplicably remained. The soldiers beat, repeatedly raped, and murdered her. They then dumped her...

    • 12 Recent Developments in the International Law of Genocide: An Anthropological Perspective on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
      (pp. 310-322)
      Paul J. Magnarella

      Anthropologists have always been concerned with the well-being of politically weak peoples around the world. Consequently they find the genocidal attacks on defenseless populations in Rwanda, Burundi, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timur, and other lands especially distressing. As part of their humanistic and scientific enterprise, anthropologists endeavor to understand the root causes and nature of these most aberrant of human acts. This chapter contributes to this endeavor by focusing on the evolving conceptualization of genocide in international law and its application to the recent genocide in Rwanda.

      Since the 1940s, when Raphael Lemkin coined the termgenocide, scholars have offered a...


    • 13 Inoculations of Evil in the U.S.-Mexican Border Region: Reflections on the Genocidal Potential of Symbolic Violence
      (pp. 325-347)
      Carole Nagengast

      The shortcomings of the present world order have never been so glaringly apparent as when we consider the failure of the international system either to predict or forestall genocide. Political philosopher Richard Falk argues that international intervention in genocide and, presumably, measures taken to prevent it will always be interest-based rather than driven by moral values. In view of what Falk calls the prevailing “politically conditioned moral advocacy” and the absence of clear geopolitical rationales for prevention/intervention, liberal democracies and intergovernmental agencies need to be pushed from below by transnational social forces (Falk 2000:169–70). Few NGOs or other international...

    • 14 Coming to Our Senses: Anthropology and Genocide
      (pp. 348-381)
      Nancy Scheper-Hughes

      Modern anthropology was built up in the face of colonial genocides, ethnocides, mass killings, population die-outs, and other forms of mass destruction visited on the marginalized peoples whose lives, suffering, and deaths have provided us with a livelihood. Yet, despite this history—and the privileged position of the anthropologist-ethnographer as eyewitness to some of these events—anthropology has been, until quite recently, relatively mute on the subject. To this day most “early warning signals” concerning genocidal sentiments, gestures, and acts still come from political journalists rather than from ethnographers in the field. And most theories concerning the causes, meanings, and...

    • 15 Culture, Genocide, and a Public Anthropology
      (pp. 382-396)
      John R. Bowen

      What is, or should be, the distinctive anthropological contribution to the study of genocide? The essays in this book point toward what we might call the cultural analysis of group violence, a mode of analysis that focuses on both individual acts of violence and public representations of group differences, and that searches for connections between the two.¹ Ultimately we wish to know whether some ways of representing differences contribute to tolerance, intolerance, or violence.² Such causal links might be direct, as when hate speech leads to hate crimes, or indirect, as when social scientific representations of difference lead to policies...

    (pp. 397-400)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 401-405)