Education PYPA 2008 Courses Understanding social and political elements of collective violence and mass crimes (with the Yugoslav and Rwandan case)


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Understanding social and political elements of collective violence and mass crimes (with the Yugoslav and Rwandan case)

Understanding social and political elements of collective violence and mass crimes (with the Yugoslav and Rwandan case)

Instructors: Vlasta Jalusic, Tonci Kuzmanic

Course description:

The course aims at a deeper understanding of conflict escalation in the transitional periods, how they eventually cumulate in massive violent events and what consequences these events have for the later forms of citizenship and political responsibility. The course will focus on the massive collective violence accompanied by mass atrocities, their preparation and implementation, and the post-conflict de-escalation periods in cases such as former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It is based on the premise that discourses of collective identity and the intersections of gender, race/ethnicity and religion are key to understand the legitimizing ideologies of violence. Along with this, the course pays special attention to ways of coming to terms with past massive collective crime, the issues of collective guilt and responsibility, and the framing of the present and the future.

The empirical base of the course – cases from the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda – are selected by virtue of being characterized by violent, “community” conflict (within a state or in the process of state dissolution and reformation) with strong gender and ethnic/race dimensions in the process of preparation. They both symbolically reflect the ideological claim that certain groups, constructed as essentially different cannot live together, each thus denying the “other's” citizenship and the fundamental “right to have rights” (Arendt).

Course objectives:

  • To understand the links between different levels of conflict and of violence and to discuss the theoretical framework for understanding the contemporary collective violence;

  • To explore the intersectional dimenstions of gender, ethnicity and religion in order to better understand the dynamics and conditions under which ethnic, gender or religious identity constructs are used (singly or in combination) to legitimate violence making it an acceptable or even necessary response to conflicts;

  • To develop an empirically based understanding of these links through the study of the two cases – former Yugoslavia and Rwanda;

  • To discuss various post-conflict steps, policies and measures to come to terms with the past, conflict settlement, and conflict transformation.

  • To reflect on the implications of the inclusion of intersections of ethnicity/race, religion and gender into understanding of collective violence and to reflect about their importance for intervention and policy - both in the selected case studies, and wider.

Detailed course schedule:

Day One: Understanding violence, power and and the new wars 

What is violence? Different levels and places of violence. What is the character of the contemporary phenomena of war and collective violence? What’s new about the “new wars?" Is there a continuity between collective conflict (collective violence) and interpersonal violence?

Day Two: How was it possible? Discussing violent confliects and mass killings as phenomena connected with racism and nationalism 

Differentiation processes among the groups in the construction of the conflict identities: the paths to collective violence. Nationalism, ethnonationalism, tribal nationalism and the state. What role do past individual or collective experiences with violence (or imagined past or possible future collective experiences of violence) play in them? How this affects the present and future in terms of violence, power and politics?

Day Three: Intersections of gender, ethnicity/race and religion 

Why gender matters within the ethnno-religious and race constellations? How do dimensions of gender, race/ethnicity and religion interact in time of the preparation of the contemporary forms of conflicts? How do they influence the new forms of wars and collective violence? How do the differentiation processes among groups take place, and how are they gendered?

Day Four: Gendered forms of acting out in collective violence

What are the patterns of gender based violence in collective violence and mass killings? Why and how is collective violence gendered? What is the function of rape and other forms of sexualized violence in collective violence, mass crimes and genocide?

Day Five: Victims, perpetrators, bystanders and future politics

Relations among guilt, responsibility and “innocence” in times of “ethnopoliticized” collective violence. How to discuss the question of (personal) guilt and (collective) responsibility? “Eichmann’s mentality” and its role in the phenomena of contemporary collective violence.

Day Six: Between past and future: how to deal with the mass crimes and collective violence?

What are the ways of coming to terms with the past massive collective crime? How are the issues of collective guilt and responsibility managed, and how they influence the present and the future social and political clashes? Why do we need to analyse and understand the new forms of of “evil”?

Day Seven: 

 Plan drafting still in process.

Reading list, required texts:

  1. Hannah Arendt, O nasilju. U Hannah Arendt, Politicki eseji, Antibarbarus Zagreb, 1996, 176-190 – izbor.
  2. Tonci Kuzmanic, “Raspad SFR Jugoslavije in nasljedstvo: narodnjaštvo - a ne nacionalizam”. U: Miroslav Hadžic, Nasilno rasturanje Jugoslavije. Uzroci, dinamika i posledice. Centar za civilno-vojne odnose, Beograd 2004, 81-102.
  3. Roy Gutman, Svjedok genocida. Durieux, Zagreb, 1994. 18-50 i 205-214.
  4. Julie Mertus, The Role of Racism as a Cause of Factor in wars and Civil Conflict, International Council on Human Rights Policy: Consultation on Racism and Human Rights Geneva, (December 3-4), 1999, (, 14p.
  5. Jalušic Vlasta, “Rod i viktimizacija nacije – predratni i posleratni diskurz identiteta”. U Miroslav Hadžic, Nasilno rasturanje Jugoslavije. Uzroci, dinamika i posledice. Centar za civilno-vojne odnose, Beograd 2004. 145-165.
  6. Erin K. Baines, Body Politics and the Rwandan Crisis, Third World Quarterly, Vol 24, No 3, 2003, 479–493.
  7. Seada Vranic. Pred zidom šutnje. Antibarbarus, Zagreb 1996, 179-215
  8. Nenad Dimitrijevic: Moralna odgovornost za kolektivni zlocin. U: Ustavna demokratija shvacena kontekstualno. Edicija Rec, Beograd, 2007: 275-309.
  9. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann u Jeruzalemu: izvještaj o banalnosti zla, Zagreb: Politicka kultura, zadnje poglavlje – izbor.

Documentaries and other movies:

  1. Smrt Jugoslavije (The Death of Yugoslavia)
  2. Krik iz groba (A Cry from the Grave)
  3. Secaš li se revolucije? (Do You Remember Revolution?)
  4. Hotel Ruanda (Hotel Rwanda)
  5. Other short movies