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ALIZA LUFT, University of California, Los Angeles

  • When: March 1, 2017
  • Where: ABF Woods Conference Room, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 4th Floor, Lakeside, Chicago IL 60611

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Theorizing Behavioral Variation in Genocide and Opportunities for Intervention

Although the legal definition of genocide hinges on proving the intent of participants to destroy civilians on the basis of “national, ethnical, racial, or religious” identity, increasingly, social scientific research on genocide indicates that rarely is destruction an initial or even consistent motivation for those who kill. Subsequently, and drawing on micro-level evidence from the Holocaust, mass violence in the former Yugoslavia, and the Rwandan Genocide, this paper identifies mechanisms of decision-making throughout a violent conflict, whether the decision is to kill or rescue a victimized civilian or to simply resist participation in violence altogether. It then proposes four opportunities for intervention inspired by these findings and explains how the legal definition of genocide can be misleading if one goal of research on genocide is to mitigate mass violence moving forward.

Toward a Dynamic Theory of Action at the Micro Level of Genocide: Killing, Desistance, and Saving in 1994 Rwanda

Courtesy of University of California, Los Angeles

Aliza Luft focuses on ethnic, racial, and religious boundary processes, gender, high-risk mobilization, and the causes and consequences of violence. These interests are reflected in her published papers and ongoing research. In these projects, she examines three aspects of decision-making in violent contexts. First, she studies wartime defection, or how people shift stances from support for state violence to resistance and saving behaviors within the same violent episode. Second, she investigates the relationship between social boundaries and political behaviors, with a specific interest in how racial, ethnic, and religious cleavages inform and are transformed by extreme violence such as genocide. Third, she analyzes the role of gender in politically violent movements. Here, she focuses on how gender informs individual’s decisions to support and participate in war, and how gender is implicated in movement's decisions to adopt violent tactics.

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