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How does ideology in some states radicalise to such an extent as to become genocidal? Can the causes of radicalisation be seen as internal or external? Examining the ideological evolution in the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust and during the break up of Yugoslavia, Elisabeth Hope Murray seeks to answer these questions in this comparative work.




Genocide is many things, but perhaps above all else, it is elusive. It is foul and evil, but beyond that, we are largely at a loss. Genocide scholars have tried to provide rationales, insights and mechanisms for prevention, but even we cannot agree on how to define genocide, on how to identify it when — or before, or even after — it occurs. What we can agree on is that we are not finished with genocide; like war, left alone it will keep occurring. Our best efforts are an attempt to stem the tide of death based on a constructed idea of ethnicity and superiority in miasmas of fear and political gain at all cost. Equally, we agree that genocide can change; genocide has worn many hats historically and, as we move into a new era, we can expect certain elements of genocide to evolve to keep up, as it were. The role of ideology in certain 20th century genocides was key to their success; in others, ideology played a lesser role. Many scholars (Zimmerer, Moses and Bloxham, just to name a few) have argued strongly that genocide is not ideological, that genocide studies has erred deeply in focusing on ideology as a rationale for genocide’s repeated and ghastly occurrence. Indeed, ideology has, in many ways, become the hanged man of genocide studies; it has been tried, sentenced, strung up and left to dangle from the gallows. However, if we are to understand where genocide can go from here and how to do our utmost to identify it before it occurs, we should revisit ideology.

Elisabeth Hope Murray

1. Problems and Challenges in Genocidal Research

All social scientists face challenges to discovering the answers to the questions they ask. As a genocide scholar, some of my challenges are unique to my field, but many are problems faced and overcome by scholars in various disciplines, showing once again that, though we deal with evil and hatred, we too are mere scholars. Thus, this first chapter simply reviews the challenges of my work - aside from the emotional and moral challenges - and looks at the theoretical and practical methods I have used to overcome them as best I can. Specifically, questions of ideological radicalisation in states moving towards genocide present two overarching problems. The first challenge is simply how to appropriately study ideology; the second challenge is how to appropriately compare cases across space and time.

Elisabeth Hope Murray

2. Defining the Devil: A Short Historiography of Genocide and a Case Study Overview

As was noted in the introduction, this book analyses the evolution of ideology as it radicalises in states that become genocidal. By comparing three cases in which genocide occurs, I am seeking to establish whether or not there is a common pattern of evolution and what key themes arise within the ideological shifts. The purpose of this section is to develop the backdrop of this investigation into what is commonly considered to be one of the vilest instances in modern history. In doing so, I will trace my own path down the literature of nationalism and genocide while also giving a broader sense of the general literature on the subjects and their interactions with each other.

Elisabeth Hope Murray

3. The Anti-nation: Otherness and Ideological Radicalisation

Scholars and policy makers alike are becoming more aware of the role the link between nation and other plays in shaping national identity, particularly when governmental policies institutionalise practises of othering where ‘the other’ is considered as being outside of, different than, external to or less than ‘the nation’. Nowhere is this practise more extreme than in cases of genocide. This being the case, it is surprising that the role of othering in nationalist ideology radicalising towards genocide has received little attention within nationalist and genocidal theory dialogue, something this chapter seeks to rectify. In doing so, I hope to provide a more comprehensive foundation and vocabulary for discussing elements of otherness throughout the radicalisation process.

Elisabeth Hope Murray

4. The Nation: Ideological Radicalisation of the Elect

When reflecting on the ideological placement of the anti-nation in genocidal ideology, one can be forgiven for agreeing with Hitler when he averred that the nationalisation of the masses ‘can never be achieved by half-measures, by weakly emphasising a so-called objective standpoint, but only by a ruthless and fanatically one-sided orientation towards the goal to be achieved’ (1969 [1925]: 306). Though certain scholars of civic and civil nationalist movements would heartily disagree that such extremes are necessary to form national identity, even they would admit that the understanding of a national self is at the core of any nationalist movement. This chapter seeks to address whether or not there are shifts in the ideological perception of the nation in cases of radicalising ideology and, if ideology does change in this regard, whether or not there are any similarities of themes or patterns across cases.

Elisabeth Hope Murray

5. The Homeland: Changing Perceptions of Blut und Boden

Most nationalist movements integrate homeland claims into their ideological message (James 1996; Özkirimli 2000; Connor 1994; Smith 1999, 1998; Hutchinson 2001). My research suggests that genocidal states are no different in this regard, but we must ask whether these claims are manifested in a unique way. In this chapter, I seek to investigate the use of the idea of ‘homeland’ in the radicalisation process of genocidal ideology. This type of analysis will hopefully allow us to draw certain conclusions that can be applied to other cases within the greater body of literature regarding genocide studies.

Elisabeth Hope Murray

6. Analysis and Conclusion: Mapping Genocidal Ideology

The preceding chapters of this book can be roughly divided into two categories: substantive and theoretical; this chapter is divided in a similar fashion. The first section of this chapter returns to the qualitative chapters on anti-nation, nation and homeland. My approach to these subjects within each chapter is thematic, but here, the focus is on mapping ideology in a chronological way, comparing each of the three cases through the lens of the events used to structure my chapters. I discuss whether or not there are similar stages of radicalisation and how these macro themes shift and change over the course of radicalisation. This approach allows me to answer the key questions posed at the very beginning of the book: Does radicalising ideology evolve in a similar way in cases of modern genocide? How does that evolution occur? What are the thematic similarities and differences in this evolution?

Elisabeth Hope Murray


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