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Cultural Genocide

Lawrence Davidson

Publication Year: 2012

Most scholars of genocide focus on mass murder. Lawrence Davidson, by contrast, explores the murder of culture. He suggests that when people have limited knowledge of the culture outside of their own group, they are unable to accurately assess the alleged threat of others around them. Throughout history, dominant populations have often dealt with these fears through mass murder. However, the shock of the Holocaust now deters today’s great powers from the practice of physical genocide. Majority populations, cognizant of outside pressure and knowing that they should not resort to mass murder, have turned instead to cultural genocide as a “second best” politically determined substitute for physical genocide.In Cultural Genocide, this theory is applied to events in four settings, two events that preceded the Holocaust and two events that followed it: the destruction of American Indians by uninformed settlers who viewed these natives as inferior and were more intent on removing them from the frontier than annihilating them; the attack on the culture of Eastern European Jews living within Russian-controlled areas before the Holocaust; the Israeli attack on Palestinian culture; and the absorption of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China.In conclusion, Davidson examines the mechanisms that may be used to combat today’s cultural genocide as well as the contemporary social and political forces at work that must be overcome in the process.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-vii

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1 Theoretical Foundations

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pp. 1-20

What are the circumstances by which large proportions of a community, be it a neighborhood or a nation, come to see others as so dangerous that they will attack them with genocidal intent? How is it that people who have never met or even seen anyone of a specified different group can be brought to hate those individuals? Why is it that we can be brought to see other people’s values as not...

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2 Cultural Genocide and the American Indians

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pp. 21-43

The theoretical background for our approach to cultural genocide is the universal phenomenon of natural localness. It is within this default position that most of us live our daily lives and come to know and understand our environment. In the case we are about to consider, the cultural genocide committed against the American...

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3 Russia and the Jews in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 44-64

The theoretical considerations put forth in chapter 1 are universal in applicability and should be borne in mind in our consideration of particular episodes involving cultural genocide. The interplay of natural localness (which inherently limits our ability to bring accurate contextual knowledge to the understanding of nonlocal events)...

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4 Israel and Palestinian Cultural Genocide

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pp. 65-88

Once more the theoretical considerations we have been working with will come into play in our consideration of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. For, as surely as the Russian czars sought to contain and ultimately destroy Jewish culture within their territories, the same aim is held by the Israeli government (past and present...

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5 The Chinese Assimilation of Tibet

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pp. 89-111

As was the case in the previous examinations, we are here dealing with two centers of localness: the ancient and very traditional local reality of Tibet, the core of which is Tibetan Buddhism, and the evolving and dynamic culture of the People’s Republic of China, the core of which is the customized ideology of Chinese communism...

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6 Conclusion

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pp. 112-131

The theoretical framework that has been proposed to help us understand the phenomenon of cultural genocide consists of the following major concepts: natural localism (here considered at the group level), closed information environments, and thought collectives. Let us review how each of these concepts played into the examples...


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pp. 133-139


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pp. 141-149

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813553443
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813552439

Page Count: 162
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 781378079
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cultural Genocide

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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Russia -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Palestinian Arabs -- Israel -- Social conditions -- 20th century
  • Tibet Autonomous Region (China) -- Social conditions.
  • Assimilation (Sociology).
  • Indians, Treatment of -- North America -- History.
  • Ethnic conflict.
  • Persecution -- Social aspects.
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