Thursday, 27 September 2012

Book Launch: Genocide Since 1945 by Philip Spencer

Tonight Philip Spencer talked at the Wiener Library in London about his book Genocide Since 1945. He gave an impassioned speech about what had made him become a scholar of genocide and why he wrote this book. He discussed Raphael Lemkin's struggle to comprehend why it was so difficult to bring the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide to justice, how this lead him to the naming and creation of the concept of genocide and how he lobbied the newly formed United Nations to make this act a crime under international law. Spencer noted how far we have come in such a short time from defining genocide to the International Criminal Tribunals and the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

What moved me the most about Spencer's talk was his focus on despair. I have often talked about my own despair, how the task of learning about genocide can seem so great, so unmanageable especially in the face of moral relativists, genocide deniers and others who seek to twist and rewrite history.

Spencer spoke of his own despair and the difficulty of drafting a book like this when the temptation is there to put it down as human nature and let the perpetrators get on with it.

He spoke of his obligation to the victims, those who can no longer speak for themselves or those who survived the vicious attacks. We need to speak up for them, to tell the world that it is not acceptable. We also need to speak up on behalf of the rescuers, those noble men and women who risk their lives to save others, who show that there is a choice and it is a crime to commit these acts. These are the people who show that there is hope for the future, and they are the ones who remain after the genocide to support the survivors and become their fellow citizens.

We need to continue learning about genocide causes and prevention in order to support and validate both victims and rescuers.

I spoke to Philip Spencer about Genocide Since 1945 and who his target market was with the novel. He explained that he had made the book as accessible as possible and it is certainly intended that his own university students would read it. The book contains an introduction to the concept of genocide and explains the differences between victims, perpetrators, bystanders and rescuers. Two full chapters are dedicated to case studies divided between the 'hidden' genocides of the Cold War era and those after. Each of the case studies carefully identifies victims and perpetrators with an important focus on intent. These chapters will be invaluable in understanding those genocides which have not formally been recognised or prosecuted.

Genocide Since 1945 is published by Routledge and available to purchase on For a limited time, you can use the discount code GEN45 to receive a discount of 20%.

© A Passion to Understand

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