Daniel Unowsky‘s book isn’t about a genocide or other incident of mass violence. Instead, The Plunder: The 1898 Anti-Jewish Riots in Habsburg Galicia (Stanford...

Daniel Unowsky‘s book isn’t about a genocide or other incident of mass violence. Instead, The Plunder: The 1898 Anti-Jewish Riots in Habsburg Galicia (Stanford UP, 2018) examines a series of riots against Jews in Habsburg Galicia in the year 1898. Unowsky tries to understand how, in an Empire built around the idea of the rule of law, anti-Jewish violence could erupt so quickly and then fade away almost as rapidly. Unowsky examines the riots in detail, exploring their background, the personalities and the background of the perpetrators, and the responses of the victims and the state. His research is careful and thorough and his narrative captivating. In particular, his examination of the trials that followed the violence and the light they shed on the Habsburg state and world view is fascinating.

But saying his book isn’t about a genocide isn’t the same as saying it isn’t about genocide. The question he lays out, why ‘normal’ people commit racialized violence, is at the core of the discipline. Unowsky’s book has important implications for the way violence erupted again in the region after World War One. And it adds another case study to the growing body of literature examining the microcauses of mass violence.