Genocide and the Politics of Memory: Studying Death to Preserve Life / Edition 1

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More than sixty million people have been victims of genocide in the twentieth century alone, including recent casualties in Bosnia and Rwanda. Herbert Hirsch studies repetitions of large-scale human violence in order to ascertain why people in every historical epoch seem so willing to kill each other. He argues that the primal passions unleashed in the cause of genocide are tied to the manipulation of memory for political purposes. According to Hirsch, leaders often invoke or create memories of real or fictitious past injustices to motivate their followers to kill for political gain or other reasons. Generations pass on their particular versions of events, which then become history. If we understand how cultural memory is created, Hirsch says, we may then begin to understand how and why episodes of mass murder occur and will be able to act to prevent them. In order to revise the politics of memory, Hirsch proposes essential reforms in both the modern political state and in systems of education.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A valuable point of departure for an examination of some of the major issues of Holocaust interpretation.

American Historical Review

Provides both a lucid and original account of why genocide occurs and a vision of how it can be prevented.

Roger W. Smith, College of William and Mary

A touchingly literary work and at the same time . . . well grounded in social science thinking.

Israel W. Charny, Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807845059
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/17/1995
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.19 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Herbert Hirsch, professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, is author of many books, including Persistent Prejudice: Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Violence as Politics: A Series of Original Essays.

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Table of Contents

Sect. I Politics, Memory, and Mass Death 1
1 Memory and Politics in Bosnia 5
2 The Politics of Memory 10
3 History as Memory: The Influence of Time and Paradigm 16
4 The Manipulation of Memory and Political Power 23
Sect. II Studying Death 37
Pt. I Constructing Memory: Survivors and Theorists 39
5 Primo Levi: Recording Memory and Teaching Humanity 43
6 Memory and Survival: A Reconsideration of the Bettelheim-Des Pres Debate 56
Pt. II Explaining Memory: Positivist and Interpretive Social Science 71
7 Trivializing Human Memory: Social Science Methods and Genocide Scholarship 73
8 Robert Jay Lifton: Memory and Mass Death 83
Pt. III Transmitting Memory: Why People Kill 95
9 The Language of Extermination 97
10 The Socialization of Memory: Teaching Obedience in Nazi Germany 109
11 Learning to Obey: Creating the Conditions for Genocide 123
12 Memory and Identity: Developing Self in the Context of Politics 133
Sect. III Preserving Life 157
13 Where Do We Go from Here?: Memory and Resocialization to Preserve Life 161
14 Memory and the Politics of Preserving Life: Preventing Genocide in the Post-Cold War World 181
Epilogue. Memory, Hope, and Triumph over Evil 213
References 217
Index 237
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