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Civilization and genocide by Christopher John Powell.

Publication | Library Call Number: HV6322.7 .P686 2005

This dissertation argues that civilization produces genocides. It begins by considering the obstacles to a sociological understanding of genocide. First among these is the metaphysics of rupture that situates genocide radically outside the field of ordinary social relations, treating it as a breakdown, rather than as a product, of social relations. A second obstacle is the essentially contested status of the concept of ‘genocide’, which must be understood historically, through genealogical and figurational analysis. A third obstacle is the relative over-development of heroic sociologies of genocide, which focus on the production of an intending collective subject, and the relative under-development of anti-heroic sociologies that attend to difference, to relations, and to strategies of un-making. I theorize genocide using Norbert Elias's figurational analysis of the European civilizing process, which traces the intertwined growth of state institutions, particularly the state's territorial monopoly of military force, and of forms of self-regulation and habitual conduct that have come to be seen as civilized behaviour. Through a deconstructive reading of Elias's texts, I overcome the limits set by Elias's residual essentialism and Eurocentrism, which naively equates civilization with pacification, to produce instead an account of how the expansion of the civilizing process involves the reproduction of social violence on an ever-expanding scale. Under some circumstances, this process of ‘barbarous civilization’ is realized through genocidal violence, or ‘civilizing genocides’. Finally, I apply this framework to the analysis of six historical examples of civilizing genocides: in Languedoc, Guatemala, Tasmania, India, Turkey, and Rwanda. I show that these examples, some of which are not usually considered genocides, can fruitfully and appropriately be treated as such, and how each of these events, usually considered examples of the failure or the breakdown or the limits of European civilization, are better understood as instances of its expansion.

Book cover
Powell, Christopher John, 1971-
Record last modified: 2018-05-25 09:44:00
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