Christian Gerlach

Extremely Violent Societies in the Twentieth Century

Cambridge University Press 2010

New Books in Genocide StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network October 13, 2012 Kelly McFall

What if genocide scholars have been approaching the field the wrong way? When I first opened Extremely Violent Societies in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge...

What if genocide scholars have been approaching the field the wrong way?

When I first opened Extremely Violent Societies in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2010), I was immediately struck by the immense depth of research and learning. Christian Gerlach chooses his case studies from among the lesser studied cases of genocide and immersed himself in the literature. Moreover, he surveys the history and theory of counterinsurgency warfare in roughly 20 countries over the space of 50 years. His knowledge of the field is encyclopedic, and one must admire his tenacity, not to mention the persuasiveness clearly necessary to persuade the publisher to include such an extensive set of notes.

More important, however, than the breadth and depth of research are the conclusions Gerlach reaches. For Gerlach’s book argues that people who study genocide need to approach the subject in a different way, one that is broader, is more grounded in primary research, and one that uses the categories of race and ethnicity much more carefully. Whether you agree with this contention or not, it’s a book that makes you think hard about your own ideas–one of the highest compliments you can pay an author.

I have no doubt that Gerlach’s book will be one of the most talked about works in the field. I hope you find the interview just as stimulating.

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