Authored by: James Hughes

Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  October  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415476256
eBook ISBN: 9780203845493
Adobe ISBN: 9781136927577


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The greatest challenge for understanding genocide is that, while there is almost universal revulsion today at what the term is presumed to encapsulate – mass killing and group annihilation – there is in fact no consensus over the definition of what acts are covered, which groups are protected, or what causes it. Harff and Gurr identified forty-four cases of state-sponsored mass murder occurring since 1945 that they believe satisfy the ‘general definitional criteria’ of genocide (Harff and Gurr, 1988: 362–5). Academic scholarship on genocide has grown immensely in response to the Holocaust, postcolonial conflicts, and civil wars in developing countries. Yet, until the Yugoslavian civil wars of the early 1990s the international community was reluctant to even attribute the word genocide to any particular conflict, and generally prefers to use, as in the case of Rwanda, the more diluted term ‘acts of genocide’.

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