Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Joachim J. Savelsberg's "Representing Mass Violence"

Joachim J. Savelsberg is Professor of Sociology and Law and Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair at the University of Minnesota. He is the coauthor of American Memories: Atrocities and the Law and author of Crime and Human Rights: Criminology of Genocide and Atrocities.

Savelsberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur, and reported the following:
How do interventions by the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court influence representations of mass violence? What images arise instead from the humanitarianism and diplomacy fields? How are these competing perspectives communicated to the public via mass media? Zooming in on the case of Darfur, I analyze more than three thousand news reports and opinion pieces and interviews leading newspaper correspondents, NGO experts, and foreign ministry officials from eight countries to show the dramatic differences in the framing of mass violence around the world and across social fields. Representing Mass Violence contributes to our understanding of how the world acknowledges and responds to violence in the Global South.

From page 99:
In short, while interview statements illustrate how activists of national sections of INGOs (here Amnesty-USA) seek to build organizational and linguistic bridges to domestic political movements (Save Darfur in our case), public representations of massive violence as displayed on websites of the national section remain distinct from national contexts and in line with the INGO’s central policies. With regard to the perceived necessity of ICC interventions, however, both organizations agree: they strongly advocate criminal justice intervention by the International Criminal Court against those responsible for the mass violence in Darfur. In their general assessment of the situation—as a campaign of criminal, indeed genocidal, violence or as war crimes and crimes against humanity respectively—and in the conclusions drawn for judicial intervention, NGOs in the United States aligned closely with other segments of American civil society, as our media analysis documented. And they shaped the rhetoric of the US government.

Conclusions Regarding the Periphery of the Justice Field

Clearly, in the United States, civil society and government stood out in international comparison as both sought to advance a criminalizing frame for Darfur and a definition of the violence as genocide. This does not mean, as we have seen, that rhetoric necessarily translates into action. Obviously the Clinton administration was mistaken when it refused to identify the 1994 violence in Rwanda as genocide, fearing that such a label would necessarily prompt military intervention. The George W. Bush administration proved this assumption wrong in the case of Darfur. It spoke loudly about genocide but refused to intervene decisively. Further, despite the rather forceful mobilization and rhetoric in the Darfur case, the world cannot always rely on the United States and American civil society when mass atrocities are being committed. As discussed above, the American response to Darfur was characterized by a particular constellation of societal and cultural conditions. It contrasts with the silence shown in many other cases, such as the long-lasting lack of public and governmental attention to the long and…
The “Page 99 Test” works and does not work for this book. It works as the page entails central lessons learned in part I, depicting human rights and court responses to Darfur; but it neither informs of the competing representations of the reality of mass violence nor does it show the empirical evidence on which the conclusions are based).
Learn more about Representing Mass Violence at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue