Abram de Swaan will talk about his new book The Killing Compartments; The Mentality of Mass Murder (Yale U.P., Jan 2015). Episodes of mass annihilation occur in societies that have gone through a process of compartmentalization, in which the target group is increasingly separated from the rest of the population at every level: culturally and institutionally, in everyday interaction and in personal experience. But the process of annihilation may proceed in different modes, such as a ‘conquerors’ frenzy’ or a self-destructive ‘losers’ triumph.’
There is almost complete consensus that genocidal perpetrators are ‘ordinary men,’ but this has blocked the insight that most perpetrators do differ in some decisive respects from most other people.
De Swaan will be in discussion with Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University.