Engendering Genocide: Representations of Violence in the Long Twentieth Century
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Genocide studies typically emphasizes economics, law, history, political science, and sociology as the disciplines most relevant to understanding the phenomenon of premeditated mass slaughter, and the scholarship has been dominated by men, both as subjects and authors. Engendering Genocide intervenes in a field traditionally dominated by the social sciences, illustrating how U.S. literary and cultural texts provide a space for their creators and their audiences to imagine the transnational, gendered, and often quotidian nature of genocide. Weaving together literary criticism, feminist theory, and a transnational American Studies methodology, this project analyzes representations of the crime in the twentieth-century United States. Unbound to the empirical protocol of social sciences, my objects of study—which include novels, memoirs, manifestos, photographs, and film—allow for the imagination of political possibilities unafforded to other disciplines. I demonstrate that by giving this crime a name and telling its story, the figures in my project relied on both word and image in order to make visible a specific kind of violence they saw repeating in different iterations throughout human history, and in turn, to instigate nations to interfere in the domestic affairs of other sovereign powers. By chronicling their efforts, Engendering Genocide considers the ethical and aesthetic challenges and consequences involved in these acts of representation. Based on this analysis, I ultimately conclude that the horror of genocide cannot be fully represented—and that’s precisely one of the factors that makes the crime so dangerous: it can hide, so to speak, in plain sight.
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