Over the last several decades, scholars have lamented the lack of a clear definition of genocide, and many have then proposed one of their own in an attempt to fill this gap. The majority of the definitions put forward, and the discomfort from which they arise, express an explicit or implicit attachment to essentialism, the assumption that the definition need reflect, in an unadulterated fashion, the objective reality out in the world. In other words, many take our failure to settle on a single definition of genocide across fields as a sign that we don't yet know what it is. We seem to want to know not so much what genocide means to us and how this construct might be more useful in our attempts to create a better world, but rather, what it really is at its core. In what follows, we will examine our ongoing attachment to essentialist understandings of genocide, some of the problems that arise as a result, how we have attempted to free ourselves from this approach, and how we might go further in doing so.


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pp. 132-149
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