Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stages, Steps and Other Categorizations of Genocide

The 8 Stages of Genocide, as listed by Genocide Watch, are as follows:

1. Classification
2. Symbolization
3. Dehumanization
4. Organization
5. Polarization
6. Preparation
7. Extermination
8. Denial

As a checklist o' genocide, the list is extremely useful, but assumes a systematic nature of the crime that I am not fully convinced exists. This list has been referenced and reused consistently in books and articles without criticism or comment - its ubiquity proves its validity; I don't need to go into detail as to why that's a problem. Yet the majority of the steps can happen without genocide being the ultimate goal. This does not mean that it is healthy or positive if a society is busily classifying its citizens into distinct groups or actively engaging in polarization - it just means that genocide is not the inevitable conclusion in those scenarios. Yes, this is why there are genocide "watches" and genocide "warnings", but the criteria for those labels are fairly broad (more on that later.)

Genocide Watch* also provides a list of The 12 Ways to Deny Genocide, originally compiled by Israel Charny. These tactics include victim-blaming; minimize statistics; claim that deaths were inadvertent; blame "out-of-control" forces; and "definitionalist" denial - the acts under question do not fit the definition of genocide. Of course, if the definition of genocide itself comes into question, so does that form of denial. Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch and author of the list, insists that most people who use the "definition denial" have never actually read the UN Convention (therefore do not know the legal definition), but I respectfully disagree: it is by using a very close reading or interpretation of the Convention that such denials find purchase. Nevertheless, I have no doubt of the validity of the points made in this list; rather, I have a problem with making general examples of denial genocide-specific.

More on this in the next post, because I realize it's been two weeks since I began this genocide discussion (long even for me!) and so I need to get it back on track. Check out the lists, think about them, and come back soon.

*I am using Genocide Watch not to take issue with that site in particular, but rather because it easier to reference something easily accessible by the general public as opposed to books or journals only available in university research libraries.

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