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Bert Ingelaere, Stephan Parmentier, Jacques Haers & Barbara Segaert (eds.), Genocide, Risk and Resilience: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Susan Thomson
p. 193-194
Référence(s) :

Bert Ingelaere, Stephan Parmentier, Jacques Haers & Barbara Segaert (eds.), Genocide, Risk and Resilience: An Interdisciplinary Approach, London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013, 238 p.

Notes de la rédaction

Bert Ingelaere, one of the editors of this book, received the Auschwitz Foundation Award (Prix de la Fondation Auschwitz) 2014 for his doctoral dissertation Peasants, Power and the Past. The Gacaca Courts and Rwanda’s Transition “From Below”.

Texte intégral

1The individual chapters that constitute this interdisciplinary collection each stand on their own as valuable contributions to the genocide studies literature. The volume is concerned about the legal and social genealogy of the term “genocide,” and individual chapters cover the gamut of approaches to understand and explain instances of genocide from a variety of disciplines, such as anthropology, law, philosophy and theology, and through a number of prevention mechanisms, including the 1948 UN Convention, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, and the Rome Statute. The editors have taken great care to bring together a diverse set of chapters that, taken cumulatively, provide rigourous theoretical insights into how to prevent genocide (risk) and to recover from the social, political and cultural tears that stain postgenocide societies (resilience). In addition, the editors have carefully framed the collection as an effort to bring scholars of genocide and transitional justice into conversation. At the heart of their combined effort is an appeal to separate the study of the causes and aftermath of genocide from “other instances of violence such as war… or appeals to expand the definition of the crime to encompass ‘atrocity’ crimes” (p. 3).

2Central to the editors’ approach is bringing together the usually temporally distinction concepts of “risk” and “resilience.” To do so, the volume is framed around the Truth, Accountability, Reparation and Reconciliation (TARR) framework set out in co-editor Parmentier’s sole-authored chapter 7. As such, individual chapters seek to merge the issue of risk and prevention with individual and community resilience in the aftermath of genocide. It does so in setting out chapters along a continuum of risk and resilience. The collection consists of 15 individual chapters, including the introductory chapter (co-authored by all four editors), and is divided into two parts. The first part sets out the theoretical debates and institutional frameworks while the second analyzes a number of case studies, from Bosnia to the Holocaust to Rwanda. In questioning the legalism that undergirds the study of genocide and extending our analytical toolkit to include thinking about risk and resilience as a continuum, the book stands alone in seeking to bridge the divide between genocide studies and transitional justice. The volume also considers traditional themes, including consideration of layers of analysis (local, national, regional and international, the role of property rights and the role of memory and official truth narratives in both preventing and coping in the aftermath of genocide.

3Since the concepts of risk and resilience and their temporality are integrated into all chapters, I focus here on a handful of notable ones. Renowned genocide scholar Martin Shaw writes the first chapter in the theoretical part of the book. His contribution summarises definitional debates on the crime of genocide, noting the ways in which some scholars have sought to water it down, in some cases to the point of analytical and policy inutility. Instead, Shaw argues that genocide must be released from its legal foundation to allow policy makers and humanitarians to understand individual “forms, methods, scope and scale” as well as the operational political and military contexts on a case-by-case basis (p. 32). In arguing for a more complex and structural analysis of local and regional contexts, Shaw sets out a new framework for genocide prevention that is also echoed in later chapters by Lemarchand, McLoughlin and Mayerson, and Haers. Parmentier’s chapter on the TARR model of transitional justice rounds out the first part of the book. He sets out the linkages between risk and resilience, between prevention and coping in a sophisticated chapter that provides a functional framework for academics, policy-makers and humanitarians to confront genocidal pasts while looking forward to individual and societal healing in its aftermath.

4Neither the editors of the volume nor individual authors are delusional about the theoretical and empirical gap between the aspirations to prevent genocide, or any easy answers to resilience in its aftermath. This sentiment pervades the second section, with individual authors critically assessing the risk-resilience continuum. Carmichael’s chapter on Bosnia traces the moments of crisis that lead to genocide and individual efforts to revive in the aftermath. Of particular importance is her consideration of the deep structural roots of genocide and their contemporary role in current episodes of violence, notably through the lens of historical injustice and how past hurts frame the trauma of today. Kotlowksi authors a powerful chapter in which he compares the agency of four men from four different European countries, in facilitating the flight of Jews from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. His chapter provides valuable insights to the by-stander phenomenon, and highlights the importance of individual action in preventing future rounds of mass violence and genocide. Üngör’s chapter asks readers to look beyond the usual framework of international criminal law in understanding genocide as mere mass murder to think about the “overlapping processes that gear into each other and together produce an intended and coherent system of destruction” (p. 186). His chapter highlights both the risk and resilience elements of dispossession as a bureaucratic cause of genocide, and a necessary element of postgenocide resilience. Ingelaere’s chapter also highlights the risk-resilience continuum in his assessment of Rwanda’s gacaca courts, noting the ways in which the current government has instituted a postgenocide mechanism that is not meeting its stated goal of ending the culture of impunity that it considers a partial cause of the 1994 genocide.

5Each chapter in this co-edited volume is excellent; as a collection, the book is an important resource for academics and policy-makers alike. Indeed, the volume is so cohesive it could easily form the backbone of a graduate seminar on genocide risk and resilience. This is a book that deserves to be widely read.

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Susan Thomson, « Bert Ingelaere, Stephan Parmentier, Jacques Haers & Barbara Segaert (eds.), Genocide, Risk and Resilience: An Interdisciplinary Approach »Témoigner. Entre histoire et mémoire, 120 | 2015, 193-194.

Référence électronique

Susan Thomson, « Bert Ingelaere, Stephan Parmentier, Jacques Haers & Barbara Segaert (eds.), Genocide, Risk and Resilience: An Interdisciplinary Approach »Témoigner. Entre histoire et mémoire [En ligne], 120 | 2015, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2015, consulté le 04 octobre 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Susan Thomson

Peace and Conflict Studies Program, Colgate University

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