Naming Violence: A Critical Theory of Genocide, Torture, and Terrorism

Naming Violence: A Critical Theory of Genocide, Torture, and Terrorism

by Mathias Thaler

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Much is at stake when we choose a word for a form of violence: whether a conflict is labeled civil war or genocide, whether we refer to “enhanced interrogation techniques” or to “torture,” whether a person is called a “terrorist” or a “patriot.” Do these decisions reflect the rigorous application of commonly accepted criteria, or are they determined by power structures and partisanship? How is the language we use for violence entangled with the fight against it?

In Naming Violence, Mathias Thaler articulates a novel perspective on the study of violence that demonstrates why the imagination matters for political theory. His analysis of the politics of naming charts a middle ground between moralism and realism, arguing that political theory ought to question whether our existing vocabulary enables us to properly identify, understand, and respond to violence. He explores how narrative art, thought experiments, and historical events can challenge and enlarge our existing ways of thinking about violence. Through storytelling, hypothetical situations, and genealogies, the imagination can help us see when definitions of violence need to be revisited by shedding new light on prevalent norms and uncovering the contingent history of ostensibly self-evident beliefs. Naming Violence demonstrates the importance of political theory to debates about violence across a number of different disciplines from film studies to history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231547680
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 09/11/2018
Series: New Directions in Critical Theory , #52
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 767 KB

About the Author

Mathias Thaler is senior lecturer in political theory at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Moralische Politik oder politische Moral? Eine Analyse aktueller Debatten zur internationalen Gerechtigkeit (2008) and the coeditor of On the Uses and Abuses of Political Apologies (2014).

Table of Contents

1. Political Theory Between Moralism and Realism
2. Telling Stories: On Art’s Role in Dispelling Genocide Blindness
3. How to Do Things with Hypotheticals: Assessing Thought Experiments About Torture
4. Genealogy as Critique: Problematizing Definitions of Terrorism
5. The Conceptual Tapestry of Political Violence

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