Benjamin Lieberman, "Remaking Identities: God, Nation and Race in World History" (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013)


What do you say to someone who suggests that genocide is not just destructive, but constructive? This is the basic theme of Benjamin Lieberman's excellent new book Remaking Identities: God, Nation and Race in World History (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013). The book surveys two thousand years of history to explain how people have used violence to reconstruct identities. This obviously involves death and destruction. But it also involves recasting the identities of survivors. It involves evangelism and religious conversion. It entails education and persuasion. It sometimes requires forced separation from one's community and integration into a new community and a new way of viewing the world. In doing so, Lieberman reminds us, many perpetrators intended to create a new world, not just destroy an old one. It's an important insight, one Lieberman explores through a variety of case studies ranging from the Islamic expansion of the 700s to the violence of the 20th century. Lieberman was not content, however, to write just one book. At almost the same time, he published a textbook titled The Holocaust and Genocides in Europe (Bloomsbury Press, 2013). The book is a study in brevity and in the choices facing the author in compressing such a large topic into a couple of hundred pages. The result is an excellent text, well worth reading, whether as a college student or as an interested reader. We managed to talk about both books in one regular-length interview. I trust you'll enjoy the result.

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Kelly McFall

Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University.

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