Engaging Our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide
Oxford University Press 2016
New Books in Genocide StudiesNew Books in Human RightsNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network September 21, 2016 Kelly McFall
Today is the third of our occasional series on the question of how to respond to mass atrocities. Earlier this summer I talked with Scott Straus and Bridget Conley-Zilkic. Later in September I’ll talk with Carrie Booth Walling.
I’m teaching a class on the Historical Method this semester. As part of this we’ve talked quite a bit about the question of whether historians have ethical imperatives as part of their writing. As you might expect, the students have disagreed, sometimes emotionally, about this issue. Within the field of genocide studies, this question is considerably less contentious. No one expects to be completely neutral in the face of studying mass atrocities. Each of the books in this occasional series on our response to mass atrocities has examined the topic carefully, thoroughly and objectively. Yet, each has an ethical imperative manifested in a tangible urgency that underlays the careful scholarly analysis.
James Waller’s new book Confronting Evil: Engaging Our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide (Oxford University Press, 2016) shares this passion. Building on his earlier work, Waller is most interested in how we should respond to genocide and similar crimes. His answer is aimed at academics, but especially at non-specialists. The result is a superb survey of the existing literature on prevention understood broadly. Read in conjunction with Straus and Conley-Zilkic, it reminds us of the importance of acting before crises strike and of recognizing both the opportunities and the limitations of intervention. It’s a must read for anyone interested in the topic.