Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Questions on Mamdani from your noble leader

What does it mean to say, as Mamdani suggests some do (7), that genocide had no history?

Why must genocidal violence be "thinkable," if not is agreed not to be "rational" (8)?

Why is political economy inadequate to explain post colonial political violence (19)?

What differentiates cultural and political communities (23)?

What are the bases for race and ethnic differences in Rwanda?

What is a subject race?  Who is the subject race in Rwanda?


  1. Mamdani, in refuting the common thought that genocide is not historical, says that this assumption exists because people see genocide as a bizarre, unthinkable, violation against humanity. While it is definitely the last one, Mamdani disagrees with the first two. This bleeds into your second question, about how genocide is "thinkable" although not necessarily "rational". Its irrationality emerges out of the aforementioned violation-against-humanity statement I made earlier; as we've learned from Locke, Kant, and Rousseau, human beings are (if not naturally, according to Rousseau, then have the potential to be) rational creatures, and rational creatures have a tendency towards self-preservation. That self-preservation is maintained by cooperation with others in a civil society, where we all agree not to kill each other. This agreement is obviously broken by genocide, where not only murder but murder on a massive scale occurs. But then why is it even thinkable, if it breaks social contract? Because genocide is a historical product, imbued with political meaning, whose causes can be traced and pinpointed by studying its historical contexts. The image of the Jew as "The Other" did not arise out of nowhere, nor did the hatred of the Tutsis by the Hutus. Rather, Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat to blame the events of WWI on, and the Hutus saw the Tutsis as aliens invading their native land. Of course, these are great oversimplifications, but they work well enough to show the historical context that led to genocide. These types of things, while horrible and irrational, never happen out of the blue.

  2. I can't contribute much to this because everything you say here is both right and well-written. However, in class, I hope I would have mentioned that one of the reasons why we do not try to make genocide thinkable is that it borders on apologism, on the one hand, and dishonors the victims, on the other.


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