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What is Genocide?, 2nd Edition

What is Genocide?, 2nd Edition

Martin Shaw

ISBN: 978-0-745-68707-0

Jun 2015, Polity

232 pages


This fully revised edition of Martin Shaw’s classic, award-winning text proposes a way through the intellectual confusion surrounding genocide. In a thorough account of the idea’s history, Shaw considers its origins and development and its relationships to concepts like ethnic cleansing and politicide.  Offering a radical critique of the existing literature on genocide, he argues that what distinguishes genocide from more legitimate warfare is that the ‘enemies’ targeted are groups and individuals of a civilian character.  He vividly illustrates his argument with a wide range of historical examples - from the Holocaust to Rwanda and Palestine to Yugoslavia - and shows how the question ‘What is genocide?’ matters politically whenever populations are threatened by violence.

The second edition of this compelling book will continue to spark interest and vigorous debate, appealing to students and scholars across the social sciences and in international law.

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Preface to the Second Edition

1 Introduction: The Importance of Definition


2 Raphael Lemkin and the Idea of Genocide

3 The Concept after Lemkin

4 The Holocaust Standard

5 The 'Cleansing' Euphemism

6 The Many 'Cides' of Genocide


7 From Intentionality to a Structural Concept

8 The Structure of Genocide: Conflict and War

9 Actors and Process in Genocidal Conflict

10 Structural Contexts: Explaining Modern Genocide

11 Conclusion: New Definitions


Each chapter has been substantially updated and a lot of new material has been added

In this second edition of his wonderful book, Shaw shows that definitions matter in explaining genocide. Incorporating recent work he gives a highly-intelligent view of genocide, broadly defined as in Raphael Lemkin?s original coining of the term. If you want to read a general work on genocide and ethnic cleansing, this should be your first choice.
Michael Mann, University of California, Los Angeles

The first edition of What is Genocide? rightly became an instant classic. The second edition adds depth on Raphael Lemkin, the notion of genocidal massacre and the structural dimensions of genocide. It is essential reading for teaching and thinking about this troubling subject.
Dirk Moses, European University Institute