Philip Dwyer and Lyndall Ryan
Theaters of Violence
Massacre, Mass Killing, and Atrocity through History
Berghahn Books 2012
We spend a lot of time arguing about the meaning and implications of words in the field of genocide studies. Buckets of ink have been spilled defining and debating words like genocide, intent, ‘in part,’ and crimes against humanity.
Philip Dwyer and Lyndall Ryan are certainly invested in the process of careful definitions and descriptions. Theaters of Violence: Massacre, Mass Killing, and Atrocity through History (Berghahn Books, 2012)and the special issue of the Journal of Genocide Research that form the basis of our discussion are both a plea for and a move toward a thorough, theoretically sound understanding of the concept of a massacre. In doing so, they offer a thoughtful commentary on the notion of genocide and its relationship to massacres and atrocities.
But these volumes are more than a theoretical engagement with a concept. They are a rich exploration of the nature of mass killing, as the subtitle puts it, throughout history. The essays here range from individual case studies to attempts to discover patterns and consistencies from the fractal landscape of violence that has typified human existence. They offer readers a chance to come to grips with the disturbing reality that human beings have always been willing to destroy other humans at exactly the moment when they are most vulnerable.
A brief note for those listeners unfamiliar with the Journal of Genocide Research. The journal is one of the leading venues for researchers from a variety of academic disciplines to report on their research about genocide and related topics. It offers scholars from across the world a chance to propose new ideas, publicize new discoveries, and launch new conversations about important books or developments in the field. As such, it is a must read for those interested in new research on genocide studies.
This podcast begins an attempt to expand our coverage slightly beyond the ‘new book’ format of the channel. Most interviews will remain focused on new books published in the field. But the Journal publishes special issues periodically that function much like books in their focus on specific issues or events. So the podcast will occasionally feature the editors of these special issues. I hope you’ll find these interviews as interesting and as important as you do those with books you can get at the library.