12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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This brilliantly written tome by Adam Jones delivers exactly what it promises: A comprehensive introduction to genocide. Not only does Jones prove to be an extraordinary scholar for amassing so much information, but also an excellent author for producing such a clear, insightful, and substantive text.
As you can imagine, there are many books on the subject. However, most tend to focus on specific genocides only: i.e., Darfur, Rwanda, Jewish Holocaust, etc. This book, however, seems to cover them all - at least all the major ones in recent history. Here, each genocide is examined individually by chapter and receives fair and proper treatment. Jones shows no apparent signs of favouritism or prejudice as he remains objective from start to finish. Almost every statement of fact is supported by a citation or some kind of attribution, which shows just how much research was conducted for this project. And at the end of each chapter, an impressive list of notes and selected books is offered for further study, which I'm sure readers will find very useful.
From the genocide of Native Americans to the most recent genocide in Darfur, Jones gets right down to business and discloses every essential piece of information one needs to know; the historical background, the circumstances, the atrocities, the methods in which the atrocities were committed, the identity of the perpetrators and the victims, the number of casualties, and the end result of each genocide. Not shy of addressing even the toughest questions (example: "Is genocide ever justified?" or, "Are democracies less likely to wage war and genocide...?"), Jones provides us with not only his own expertise on such matters, but also the insights of other prominent experts in the field. This gives the reader a much more balanced and multidimensional view on the complexities of genocide.
I found Chapters 10 through 16 especially informative, and fascinating at the same time. Here, the focus is on the psychological aspect of genocide: Why do "ordinary" people participate in such atrocities? How could anyone ever become so cruel and sadistic? Why would anyone even attempt to justify or deny a genocide? What's going on inside the brain of these people? I've always wanted to understand the mindset of these individuals and what motivates them to do such things, beyond the simplistic "hatred," and "brainwashed by propaganda" factors that so many authors tend to contend with. Although racism and propaganda do in fact play a significant role in genocide, there are other elements that motivate "genocidaires."
These elements, according to Jones' findings, are purely psychological. They include: Greed, Fear, Narcissism, and Humiliation. As Jones elaborates on these factors, things begin to truly unravel, especially when he introduces the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments, which I think are quite astonishing and may very well surprise some (if not most) readers. However, I would also suspect that some readers may not agree with everything stated in this book.
For example, I disagree entirely with Jones' siding with the likes of Noam Chomsky, who stood in defence of Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson. As far as Jones is concerned, scum bags like Faurisson should not be punished by law for denying a genocide and for promoting outrageous propaganda. This, quite frankly, caught me off guard. I'm very surprised by that fact, considering the overall tone of this book. It really boggles my mind as to why Jones - a man so dedicated in spreading awareness about genocide - would actually tolerate the views of those that dismiss it. But thankfully, Jones does not persuade the reader into accepting his personal views, and at least he has the decency to present both sides of the argument to allow readers to form their own opinion. But as far as I'm concerned, there is a visible distinction between free speech and hate speech. Genocide denial falls into the category of hate speech, which in moral terms, should be completely outlawed.
But besides my disagreement with the author on this one particular issue, I have nothing to complain about. Jones demonstrates a high degree of professionalism and accomplishes a very difficult task in breaking down such broad subject. I would consider this book ideal for high school, college, and university students. In my opinion, this is the sort of book that belongs in every library and book store. I highly recommend it!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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Let me begin by saying that I wish there didn't have to be books on genocide, but as long as people continue to find ways to hate each other, there will probably be books on genocide and impassioned views from both victims and perpetrators. Jones Comprehensive Introduction to Genocide tries to provide what it's title implies and does a reasonable job. The chapters are quite readable and engaging with easy to read text and gripping black and white photographs. Situated throughout each chapter are these 1-3 pages boxes that outline various conflicts that exist throughout the world today going beyond the scope of the major genocides : Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, etc. to ask questions like are Russian actions in Chechnya genocide or China-Tibet for example. Each chapter and text box comes with a list of suggested reading materials allowing the reader to become more informed on the subject covered and make up their own mind. Another thing I liked about this book was the multiple perspective based chapters (sociology, history, political science) because it showed that genocide isn't just a history problem or polisci one, but rather enshrines all of us. The one downside is that it needs an update hopefully the 2010 version can build on the solid 2007 effort.
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The book covers a wide range of subjects which I need to understand my subject. It also gave me an idea for pursuing.
8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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I am a Genocide Studies professor. I had wanted to try a new book for the foundational text for my introductory graduate seminar, and I thought, from the table of contents, that this one looked great. It was NOT!
I should've known better as I had read his Gendercide book and hated it, but from the descriptions of this book, I expected it was going to be a good one...I was mistaken.
Yes, Jones does cover a wide variety of topics in this book, but all but one or two of the chapters are so painfully biased and Western-centric that it is almost embarrassing. The book practically SCREAMS "White, upper-middle-class, old-school, British male. From his insensitive language choices (for example, he calls every genocide "Holocaust" - like the "Cambodian Holocaust") to his totally condescending western bias, there was so much to critique about this text that I was actually embarrassed to have assigned it. Even my first year students complained constantly about this book EVERY week!
His chapter on Gender is particularly awful - really - I mean it is certainly important to attend to the ways in which men are targeted in genocide, and to shed light on the use of sexual violence against men, but his choice to foreground the ways men are affected by genocide - contextualized as if no one EVER pays any attention to the plight of men - is so off-putting that by the time he actually gets to some of the deeper gender and genocide issues, the reader is utterly turned off.
To be fair, his chapter on Rwanda was really nicely done, and his chapter on Memory, Forgetting and Denial is also quite good. I also appreciate that, in many chapters, after he treats a given (better-known) genocide in detail, he offers a sort of post-script that illuminates a lesser known event. But in all honesty, these features are not enough to persuade me to EVER use this text again...in fact I wish I could give my students their money back (oh yeah...the book is also pretty expensive).