What is at stake in labeling a particular incidence of large-scale violence “genocide”? Mahmood Mamdani rightly argues that “genocide” is an insufficient description of the conflict in Darfur. I would suggest that the problematic nature of that terminology goes back to its inception after World War II. Activists have inherited the concept of “genocide” from a particular historical moment. Now, “ genocide” carries unique moral weight in the discourse of international politics. When violence against civilians has been widely accepted as a necessary outcome of the preservation of peace, activists find it necessary to imagine a worse evil than the mere fact of indiscriminate killing. The notion of “genocidal intent” fills that role. But the U.N. Commission’s inability to find “genocidal intent” in the killing of civilians in Darfur demonstrates the limits of that very notion. “Genocide” is considered the worst crime against humanity, but too many massacres and incidents of civilian casualties are not included under its rubric.
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Rice, David L. G.
"The Moral Vocabulary of Violence,"
Human Rights & Human Welfare: Vol. 7:
4, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.du.edu/hrhw/vol7/iss4/4
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