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Annihilating Difference

The Anthropology of Genocide

Alexander Laban Hinton

Publication Year: 2002

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.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: California Series in Public Anthropology

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

List of Figures and Tables

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

...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...

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pp. xiii-xiv

...Throughout history, entire populations have fallen victim to systematic genocide. During the twentieth century alone, we have witnessed the intentional destruction, in whole or in part, of such groups as Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Hutus and Tutsis, Bosnians, and indigenous peoples. Despite the urgent need to understand the origins and effects of such devastation, anthropologists have not yet fully engaged this topic of study. The present book...

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1. The Dark Side of Modernity: Toward an Anthropology of Genocide

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pp. 1-40

...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.” 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...

Part One. Modernity’s Edges: Genocide and Indigenous Peoples

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2. Genocide against Indigenous Peoples

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pp. 43-53

...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...

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3. Confronting Genocide and Ethnocide of Indigenous Peoples: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Denition, Intervention,Prevention, and Advocacy

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pp. 54-92

...Indigenous peoples are often seen, as Fein (:–) points out, as outside the universe of obligation—the “other”—or as competitors for valued resources. Governments of countries in which indigenous peoples exist have assigned them to categories such as “wards of the state” and have denied them basic civil, political, and socioeconomic rights...

Part Two. Essentializing Difference: Anthropologists in the Holocaust

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4. Justifying Genocide: Archaeology and the Construction of Difference

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pp. 95-116

...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...

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5. Scientific Racism in Service of the Reich: German Anthropologists in the Nazi Era

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pp. 117-134

...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...

Part Three. Annihilating Difference: Local Dimensions of Genocide

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6. The Cultural Face of Terror in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994

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pp. 137-178

...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...

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7. Dance, Music, and the Nature of Terror in Democratic Kampuchea

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pp. 179-193

...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...

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8. Averted Gaze: Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1992–1995

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pp. 194-226

...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...

Part Four. Genocide’s Wake: Trauma, Memory, Coping, and Renewal

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9. Archives of Violence: The Holocaust and the German Politics of Memory

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pp. 229-271

...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...

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10. Aftermaths of Genocide: Cambodian Villagers

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pp. 272-291

...Under subsequent regimes over the past two decades, villagers have undergone various processes of recovery and rebuilding under changing demographic, sociocultural, economic, and political circumstances. The discussion here will focus on several dimensions of the manifold repercussions of the “Pol Pot time”...

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11. Terror, Grief, and Recovery: Genocidal Trauma in a Mayan Village in Guatemala

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pp. 292-309

...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...

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12. Recent Developments in the International Law of Genocide: An Anthropological Perspective on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

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pp. 310-322

...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...

Part Five. Critical Reflections: Anthropology and the Study of Genocide

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13. Inoculations of Evil in the U.S.-Mexican Border Region: Reflections on the Genocidal Potential of Symbolic Violence

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pp. 325-347

...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...

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14. Coming to our Senses: Anthropology and Genocide

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pp. 348-381

...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...

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15. Culture, Genocide, and a Public Anthropology

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pp. 382-396

...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...

List of Contributors

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pp. 397-400


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pp. 401-405

E-ISBN-13: 9780520927575
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520230286

Page Count: 419
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: California Series in Public Anthropology