Political imagination and the crime of crimes: Coming to terms with ‘genocide’ and ‘genocide blindness’

Contemporary Political Theory 13 (4):358-379 (2014)
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This article deals critically with the process of coming to terms with ‘genocide’. It starts from the observation that conventional philosophical and legal approaches to capturing the essence of ‘genocide’ through an improved definition necessarily fail to adapt to the ever-changing nature of political violence. Faced with this challenge, the article suggests that the contemporary debate on genocide (and its denial) should be complemented with a focus on transforming the perceptive and interpretive frameworks through which acts of violence are discussed in the public sphere. The main purpose of this article is to contribute, from the vantage point of political theory, to this debate by offering a novel normative perspective on negative reactions to genocide. Hence I argue that it is productive to speak of ‘genocide blindness’ in cases when the members of the public sphere are simply incapable of seeing an instance of violence as genocidal. To establish this claim, the article introduces Ludwig Wittgenstein’s reflections on ‘aspect-seeing’ so as to underline the importance of changing the way that political violence is perceived and interpreted. In a second step, the article turns to María Pía Lara’s theory of storytelling as a concrete mechanism for triggering and instituting this kind of change.



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Mathias Thaler
University of Edinburgh

Citations of this work

Epistemic marginalisation and the seductive power of art.Mihaela Mihai - 2018 - Contemporary Political Theory 17 (4):395-416.

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Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity.Charles Taylor - 1989 - Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press.
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IX.—Essentially Contested Concepts.W. B. Gallie - 1956 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56 (1):167-198.

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