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The History and Sociology of Genocide

The History and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies

Copyright Date: 1990
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    The History and Sociology of Genocide
    Book Description:

    Genocide is not an invention of the twentieth-century, say Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn in this absorbing book, but has occurred throughout history in all parts of the world. This study-the first comprehensive survey of the history and sociology of genocide-presents over two dozen examples of the one-sided mass slaughter of peoples, spanning the centuries from antiquity to the present.By including political and social groups as potential victims, Chalk and Jonassohn provide a definition of genocide that is considerably broader than that contained in the United Nations Convention on Genocide. They present a typology of genocide according to the motives of the perpetrator: to eliminate a perceived threat; to spread terror among real or potential enemies; to acquire economic wealth; or to implement a belief, theory, or ideology. Chalk and Jonassohn show how the first three motives have played a role in the establishment and maintenance of empires. They note that since empires have almost disappeared, so have these three types of genocides become rare, and that ideological genocides have become the most important type of genocide in the twentieth-century. The second part of the book consists of selected studies. These include Rome's final war with Carthage, the Mongol Conquests, the Albigensian Crusades, the Great Witch-Hunt, Christians in Japan, Indians in the Americas, Ndwandwe under Shaka Zulu, Hereros in German South West Africa, Armenians in Turkey, the Soviet Union under Stalin, the Holocaust, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Burundi, and Cambodia, among others. The last part of the book presents topical bibliographies to aid the student and researcher.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16057-4
    Subjects: Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. Part I. The Conceptual Framework

      (pp. 3-5)

      A significant, albeit often ignored, difference exists between everyday discourse and scientific discourse. The language we use in everyday usage does not require and does not benefit from precise definitions; this is so because we want to communicate not only information, but also feelings, attitudes, and opinions. Scientists too have feelings, attitudes, and opinions, of course, but they also have an overriding need to separate them from their data, concepts, and research findings. Therefore, the scientist requires a language that includes precise definitions of the terms he uses and that separates the cognitive content of his communication from the emotional...

    • The Brutishness of the Past and Collective Denial
      (pp. 5-8)

      Our study of genocide has forced us on many occasions to confront the brutishness of most human societies in the past and the changing value placed on human life. Not very long ago many human societies sacrificed human beings to propitiate the gods, to protect the living against their displeasure, and to reassert the corporate unity of society. Human sacrifice existed throughout the ancient world, buttressed by religions that promised a good life in the afterworld to the sacrificial victim as well as the favor of the gods in this world for those who carried out the ritual slayings. The...

    • Genocide: Origins of a Concept
      (pp. 8-12)

      When we began our work on genocide in 1979, we could count on the fingers of one hand the number of scholars who had written comparatively about genocide. A small group of writers had taken up the work started by Raphael Lemkin in a chapter on genocide in his bookAxis Rule in Occupied Europe, published during World War II. In this pioneering scholarly essay on genocide, Lemkin coined the term and linked it to a number of historical events. Under Lemkin’s definition, genocide was the coordinated and planned annihilation of a national, religious, or racial group by a variety...

    • A Review of the Literature
      (pp. 12-23)

      Jessie Bernard seems to have been the first social scientist to incorporate genocide into a coherent analysis. In her bookAmerican Community Behavior(1949), she developed a conceptual framework to deal with processes of interaction at the local level. In her last chapter she argued that the processes of competition, conflict, organization, disorganization, and control are as real at the international level as they are at the local level. In discussing racial and ethnic competition and conflict she not only cites the work of Lemkin, but also incorporates genocide as the ultimate weapon for resolving a conflict. Her overall conceptual...

    • The Definition of Genocide
      (pp. 23-27)

      Having dealt above with several definitions of genocide and with our critiques of them, in this section we formulate and elaborate our own definition. It is deliberately restrictive. We have rejected the UN definition as well as others proposed because we want to confine our field of study to extreme cases. Thus, we hope that the termethnocidewill come into wider use for those cases in which a group disappears without mass killing. The suppression of a culture, a language, a religion, and so on is a phenomenon that is analytically different from the physical extermination of a group....

    • Some Preconditions for Genocide
      (pp. 27-28)

      The most painful question about genocide is, How is it possible for people to kill other people on such a massive scale? The answer seems to be that it is not possible, at least not as long as the potential victims are perceived as people. We have no evidence that a genocide was ever performed on a group of equals. The victims must not only not be equals, but also clearly defined as something less than fully human.

      Historically and anthropologically peoples have always had a name for themselves. In a great many cases, that name meant “the people” to...

    • A Typology of Genocide
      (pp. 29-32)

      Throughout our work we have felt it important to develop a typology that would allow us to group those phenomena that could be meaningfully compared. We found that typologies available in the literature were unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons—some of which we have discussed above. We have devised several typologies ourselves and discarded them for similar reasons. Our present thinking has resulted in a fourfold typology, based on the motives of the perpetrator. This typology is presented here as a heuristic device; its validity can arise only from its usefulness in further research. But it seems to us...

    • A Historical Summary
      (pp. 32-40)

      We do not know when the first genocide occurred. It seems unlikely that early man engaged in genocide during the hunting and gathering stage. While we have no direct evidence, this seems a reasonable assumption because man lived in quite small groups, and overall population densities were extremely low (1 person per 10 km² of habitable terrain according to the estimates of McEvedy and Jones 1978, 14).

      After the discovery of agriculture, the world divided into nomads and settlers. This marked the start of systematic conflict in the form of food raiding by the nomads. The nomads quickly learned to...

    • On Methods of Research and the Imputation of Motives
      (pp. 40-43)

      So far we have presented issues dealing with definitions and typologies—issues of a theoretical nature. This is not to be misunderstood. Definitions and typologies are not in themselves theory, but an integral part of theorizing because theory is inevitably concerned with phenomena as they have been defined and classified.

      We address here some issues dealing with research methods. We do not discuss the general issues that have to be considered in every research project because they are adequately covered in many textbooks. We shall restrict ourselves to those aspects of the methods of research that seem to us to...

    • Appendixes to Part I

      • A. The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
        (pp. 44-49)
      • B. U.S. Senate Ratification of the UN Genocide Convention
        (pp. 49-50)
      • C. The Definition of Genocide in the Canadian Criminal Code
        (pp. 50-50)
      • D. The Definition of Genocide in the Criminal Code of the United States
        (pp. 51-54)
  6. Part II. Case Studies

      (pp. 57-57)

      In part II we present readings on selected cases of mass killings. The cases are presented in rough chronological order. The reader is invited to examine each case with a view to determining the appropriateness of our definition and typology of genocide. Frequently more than one type may be considered appropriate when it is not obvious which one presents the best fit.

      We have selected cases that span history from antiquity to the twentieth century. These cases represent different cultures and societies. The situations and the processes leading up to the genocides are also diverse. The range and the variability...

      (pp. 58-64)

      We do not know when the first genocide occurred. We can only point to circumstantial evidence. Therefore, this first section will deal not with a specific case, but with a period in which many genocides are likely to have been part of the conflicts among city-states and empires. Some early evidence comes from Homer, who has Agamemnon say: “My dear Menelaus, why are you so chary of taking men’s lives? Did the Trojans treat you as handsomely as that when they stayed in your house? No; we are not going to leave a single one of them alive, down to...

    • MELOS
      (pp. 65-73)

      In 478 b.c., Athens rallied the Greek city-states to liberate Greeks from Persian rule and to resist the expansion of the Persian empire. Athens quickly gained control of the Delian League, the alliance system coordinating the war against Persia. Overcoming almost insurmountable odds, the Athenians and their allies defeated the Persians. The Athenians exacted taxes from the league’s members long after they had checked the Persian thrust. They built a large navy to enforce the collection of tribute from their former allies and to guard the maritime trade routes responsible for their prosperity. Revolts against Athenian control occurred frequently; in...

      (pp. 74-93)

      In 150 b.c., the Roman Senate decided to go to war with the North African city-state of Carthage. A year later, Roman troops laid siege to the city, setting the stage for one of the bloodiest episodes in ancient history. After three years of siege, famine, and disease, Carthage fell, and the Romans burned and leveled the city. Carthaginians from other colonies were never again allowed to settle in the city. These are the facts that historians agree upon. Very little is known about the fate of those Carthaginians who survived the fall of the city. Indeed, Carthage is one...

      (pp. 94-113)

      Western education tends to ignore the history of Asia, Africa, and South America, except for episodes of European discoveries and conquests. Therefore, we have included rather more material on the empire built by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century than on some of the other cases. As Saunders points out in his preface, much research remains to be done; but there is now enough material available to make the argument that the genocides practiced by the Mongols were part of a deliberate policy of terror. The frequency, the scale, and the thoroughness of these mass exterminations have...

      (pp. 114-138)

      The so-called Albigensian Crusades against the Cathars are a difficult case. It has produced, and is still producing, a vast literature. A mass of data is available, though none of it comes to us from the victims, and new analyses are debated in specialist circles by every generation of scholars. We do not pretend to have mastered all of these materials or all of the scholarly arguments based upon them.

      The case is included here because the Cathars certainly have disappeared, though it has never been determined how many saved their lives by recanting. Their disappearance as a social group...

      (pp. 139-151)

      Here is a case on which there is a large literature that is inaccessible, unless you can read Japanese! The materials that are available in English are limited, especially if one is not particularly interested in the martyrdom of individual priests and missionaries.

      To understand the ideological basis for Japan’s exclusion policy requires not facile generalizations about the geopolitics of an island empire, but a detailed analysis of the history of Japan. The two failed attempts by the Mongols to conquer Japan are only a minor episode in that history—not because Japan was able to defeat them, but because...

      (pp. 152-172)

      For over three hundred years sporadic witch-hunts took place in various locations in Europe. An already huge literature on the subject continues to grow, and not only for scholarly reasons: witches have always been found fascinating because of their esoteric knowledge and their emphasis on sorcery. However, we are not concerned here with benevolent witchcraft, which remained in good repute. The witch-hunts were concerned with discovering and eradicating conspiracy. The trials never dealt with the details of witchcraft; their sole purpose was to identify coconspirators in a pact with the devil. One of the sociologically interesting points about witch trials...

      (pp. 173-194)

      Pre-Spanish Conquest warfare among Indians may have produced the first genocides of the Western Hemisphere, but very little evidence of these killings, if they occurred, has survived the ravages of time. Anthropologists and historians are certain, however, that life in pre-Conquest America was far from the images of the Rousseauean idyl or the paradise of the Noble Savage so popular among English writers at the end of the eighteenth century and persisting to this day (Keen 1971, 306). The Indians did not have to learn about cruelty, warfare, and killing from the Europeans. Aztec society, like many others in the...

      (pp. 195-203)

      The case of the American Indian in the nineteenth century is one of the most complex in the history of genocide. A large number of Indians died in their encounters with white settlers, but, as in the case of Mexico and South America, epidemic disease, not genocide, took the biggest toll on their lives. Nevertheless, genocide and genocidal massacres played an important role in devastating Indian peoples.

      When one examines the evidence, it becomes clear that few American leaders wanted to annihilate the American Indian; the government-organized murder of peaceable Indians with the intention of destroying tribes in whole or...

      (pp. 204-222)

      Tasmania, an island off the south coast of Australia, had an indigenous population when the first Europeans visited it and eventually settled there. We know practically nothing about their origin and little about their culture. On the other hand, we know a great deal about what happened to them after the arrival of the Europeans, right up to their disappearance. Why do we know so much about the disappearance of the Tasmanians, when in so many other cases we know little? One wonders what bias there may be because all of the evidence comes from the perpetrators and none from...

      (pp. 223-229)

      Shaka ruled the Zulu kingdom in Southern Africa from 1818 until his assassination in 1828. This was a time of enormous population pressure and land hunger among the African peoples of the region, triggered by the northward migration of European settlers from the Cape of Good Hope. In the course of his brief but brilliant career, Shaka conquered the peoples of over three hundred chiefdoms, annihilating some and fusing others into one Zulu nation.

      Shaka’s success was based on terror. He was the first African state leader to wage a war of complete annihilation in Southern Africa. As in the...

      (pp. 230-248)

      Several of the preconditions for genocide crystallized in the midst of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century contacts between European colonizers and indigenous peoples. The sense of mission and paternalism of Europeans at home and in the colonies could turn hard and vengeful when peoples like the Hereros rose in armed rebellion. The revolt of the Hereros lasted from 1904 to 1907. In the following selection, Horst Drechsler contends that the German war to crush the rebellion amounted to a genocide against the Hereros. In our view, the core of the genocide was the German killing of Herero noncombatants after...

      (pp. 249-289)

      The Armenians are a very ancient people who seem to have lived in the same area throughout their history. They survived a large number of migrations that have washed over the Middle East, and they have maintained their ancient culture and language in spite of frequent pressures to adapt to the cultures of their conquerors. They adopted Christianity very early and have adhered to it to the present day. In the Ottoman Empire they were tolerated as a “people of the book,” but they were never considered as fully equal. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries toleration degenerated into...

      (pp. 290-322)

      The infamous rule of Stalin is a very special case, particularly from the point of view of documentation. Very tight control over all forms of communication is being exercised in the Soviet Union and facts are periodically altered to fit the prevailing political line. Most of the primary material has never been opened up for research purposes. Much of the Russian material that has become available in the West is also available in translation. A large part of the available data comes from expatriate Russians, the major exceptions being the limited materials that became available after the Twentieth Congress of...

      (pp. 323-377)

      For many of us, interest in the study of the history and sociology of genocide is a direct consequence of the Holocaust, Hitler’s war to destroy the Jewish people and most of the Romanies, or Gypsies. It took decades for the world to fathom the extent and significance of the Holocaust. For some scholars, the enormity of the Holocaust is so great that they reject categorizing it with other cases of mass killing. They argue that the Holocaust is the only case in history of the attempted destruction of an entire people. All other cases of mass killing, in their...

      (pp. 378-383)

      Indonesia, the most improbable country to arise out of the ashes of colonialism, consists of about 13,700 islands, some 12,700 of which are uninhabited and about 7,600 of which do not even have names. They are scattered over an area of Southeast Asia that stretches 3,400 miles in an east—west direction and 1,000 miles in a north—south direction. The biggest of these islands are Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi (Celebes), Java, Sumatra, and the western half of Irian Jaya (New Guinea). Java is important because it contains the capital, Jakarta (Djakarta), and the densest population. West Irian is important because...

      (pp. 384-393)

      The following reading by Stanley Meisler was a particularly fortunate find. It presents in a clear, summary fashion the relevant facts concerning a genocide that took place relatively recently. That is a considerable achievement because this case has received very little publicity—in part because much of the information was suppressed and has become available only in bits and pieces that were difficult to evaluate and put together.

      We have included the section entitled “World Reaction” to show that the perception and reporting of contemporary genocides is still affected by what we have, in part I, referred to ascollective...

      (pp. 394-397)

      Bangladesh is located on the Bay of Bengal and has borders with India and with Burma. While its low-lying territory is very fertile it is also ravaged by periodic typhoons. With about 144,000 square kilometers of land and a rapidly growing population (115 million in 1988) it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world (800/sq. km.). Over 85 percent of the population profess Islam; several of the tribal peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are Buddhists; the rest are Hindus. The language of the country is Bengali, with some dialect variations from region to region. This...

      (pp. 398-407)

      Cambodia, as Kampuchea was known until a new regime, the Khmer Rouge, came to power in 1975, is a small country situated in the southwest part of the Indochinese Peninsula. At its greatest extent, it spans 350 miles in an east–west direction and 280 miles in a north–south direction. It has borders on the east and southeast with Vietnam, on the northeast with Laos, on the west and northwest with Thailand, and on the southwest with the Gulf of Thailand. With its 69,900 square miles (about the area of Oklahoma) and 7 millon people (in 1971), Cambodia had...

      (pp. 408-411)

      Timor is an island east of Java that has historically been of interest to many trading peoples because of its great stands of sandalwood. The Portuguese started trading there about 1520, and in 1613 the Dutch also established themselves there. It was only in 1860 and in 1914 that these rivals finally signed treaties that effectively divided the island into two colonies.

      East Timor, the former Portuguese colony, is the larger half of the island with about 19,000 km²—which is less than one-half the size of Holland or Switzerland. Before the withdrawal of Portugal, it had a population of...

      (pp. 412-414)

      Brazil is an enormous country (the fifth largest in the world) of 3.2 million square miles, richly endowed with natural resources. Its new civilian government, installed in 1985 after two decades of military rule, has brought hope to most of its 138 million people. There is little hope, however, among the Indian tribes of Brazil’s Amazon region, home to three-quarters of its 225,000 Indians. Representing a mere 0.1 percent of the country’s population, the Indians are more imperiled today than at any time in their history.

      The biggest threat to their survival is the invasion of the Amazon region by...

      (pp. 415-421)

      Genocideis a new word for an ancient crime that has been practiced from antiquity to the present day. In this chapter I do not want to deal with definitions and typologies, important as these are (Jonassohn and Chalk, 1987). Instead, I want to explore an avenue for the prevention of genocides that does not require their prediction in specific places at specific times.

      In the last few years several scholars have been working on schemes of prediction and prevention. It is not clear that they are making significant progress. While it is certainly important for an understanding of the...

      (pp. 422-426)
      Leo Kuper

      There is jubilation in human rights circles that the United States has finally, after a delay of forty years, ratified the Genocide Convention. Amnesty International has good reason to congratulate itself on the success of the vigorous campaign it conducted for ratification. The long delay in the ratification is particularly startling, given the dominant role of the United States in the early years of the United Nations. It was not only that the United States had the wealth, and the generosity of spirit, to assist in the reconstruction of the shattered states of Europe. It also possessed the atom bomb...

  7. Part III. Bibliographies

    • Introduction
      (pp. 429-430)

      The selected bibliographies in this part are organized alphabetically by topic. We have included certain cases that some authors have considered to be genocides, although we disagree with their classification (for example, Nigeria). For further discussion of which cases fit our definition, see parts I and II of the present volume. We have also included bibliographies on a number of cases that are not mentioned at all in our discussions. In these controversial cases, a potential genocide appears to have been averted (for example, Iran) or a genocide seems to be in the making (for example, Sudan). Brief bibliographies on...

    • Conceptual and Background Materials
      (pp. 430-432)
    • Antiquity
      (pp. 432-433)
    • The Armenians in Turkey
      (pp. 433-434)
    • Bangladesh
      (pp. 434-435)
    • Burundi
      (pp. 435-435)
    • Cambodia
      (pp. 436-437)
    • Carthage and Rome
      (pp. 437-438)
    • The Hereros
      (pp. 438-438)
    • Heresies, Witch-Hunts, and the Inquisition
      (pp. 438-439)
    • The Holocaust
      (pp. 440-442)
    • The Indians of Canada and the United States
      (pp. 443-446)
    • The Indians of the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America
      (pp. 446-450)
    • Indonesia
      (pp. 450-451)
    • Iran
      (pp. 451-452)
    • Japan
      (pp. 452-452)
    • Melos
      (pp. 452-453)
    • The Mongols
      (pp. 453-454)
    • Nigeria
      (pp. 455-455)
    • Oceania
      (pp. 455-456)
    • Sri Lanka
      (pp. 456-456)
    • Sudan
      (pp. 457-457)
    • The USSR
      (pp. 457-459)
    • The Zulu under Shaka
      (pp. 459-460)
    • On the Prediction and Prevention of Genocide
      (pp. 460-461)