Constructive Aspects of Mass Violence
Events of mass violence in history – genocide, state-repression, terrorism, even wars – have been enormously destructive, leaving in their wake scores of victims, shattered communities, and pain that transcends generations. Yet they have also been creative moments of political construction, transforming and reshaping societies, sometimes in quite unpredictable ways.
This panel – the first of two – investigates the constructive aspects of mass violence. The three papers in this panel address this subject from a variety of chronological and geographical perspectives. Eric Weitz’s paper compares the ways in which the genocides that took place in the context of the Imperial German system – notably, the genocide of the Herero and the Nama peoples in Africa and the genocide in Anatolia – transformed the political and economic orders of these societies. Sarah Cameron’s paper looks at how the Kazakh famine of 1930-33 created new networks and forged new alliances in Kazakh society and across central Asia. Ronen Steinberg’s paper examines how debates about the legacies of revolutionary terror in France played a central role in the reconstitution of post-revolutionary society in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Taken together then, the panel aims at launching a broad discussion about the ways in which events of mass violence, broadly conceived, have transformed societies and political communities across the modern era, highlighting their constructive, albeit painfully so, dimensions.