Abdelwahab El-Affendi

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Genocide studies is one of the few academic fields with which I’m acquainted which is truly interdisciplinary in approach and composition.  Today’s guest Abdelwahab El-Affendi, and the book he has edited, Genocidal Nightmares: Narratives of Insecurity and the Logic of Mass Atrocities (Bloomsbury Academic 2014), is an excellent example of how this works out in practice.

The question this book addresses is not that unusual:  How it is that societies and individuals come to a place where they feel it necessary to commit mass atrocities.  But El-Affendi has assembled a set of authors remarkably varied in their background and approach. Indeed, his is one of the very few books in the field to draw on African and Middle Eastern scholars.  And the case studies he examined go well beyond the usual canon of genocide studies.

His conclusions clearly emerge out of this interdisciplinary cooperation. The book focuses on what he calls narratives of insecurity.  These are stories people tell themselves about their relationships with others, stories that both reflect and further the securitization of relationships between people.  These narratives, he argues, play a key role in moving people to commit acts they would earlier have believed unnecessary and even criminal.

The book offers a variety of well-written and considered essays.  And, if you’re like me, it will acquaint you with an area of international relations theory I knew nothing about.

After we concluded the interview, Abdelwahab realized he had not mentioned in our discussion one of the key contributors to the book, the UN’s Special Adviser to the Secretary General on the Prevention of  Genocide..  Deng authored the books forward and richly deserve the thanks Abdelwahab wanted to give him.  I hope this will serve as an adequate substitute for a verbal appreciation from Abdelwahab.


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