Genocide Culture: From Everyday Cultural Doxa and Ethnic Engineering to Genocide of Kurds in Iraq
This interdisciplinary study reconceptualizes the dominant vision of how genocides begin, and the role civilians play in both cultural and physical forms of genocide. I coined the term “genocide culture” and reconceptualize the terms “civilian actors” and “civilian actors and ethnic engineering” to present an alternative hypothesis of how civilians become involved in genocide through their participation in a range of cultural habitus and doxa. I argue that the socio-cultural aspects of a genocidal process develop prior to the murderous events of a state-led genocide. The concept of genocide culture draws attention to the cultural practices and core beliefs that make genocide possible. The concept highlights how a society normalizes violence against a targeted group, rationalizes the ideology of the dominant group, and legitimizes its authority. The term civilian actors describes the dispositions of ordinary people and non-state actors in the reproduction of cultural practices and behaviours that foster the state’s genocidal actions. Finally, reconceptualization of the term ethnic engineering is to include the “reconstruction” and “destruction” of a subjected group’s identity by a dominant group. The dissertation applies the sociological theories of Pierre Bourdieu to the study of genocide in order to develop socio-cultural discourses concerning genocide culture. The history of genocide against the Kurds in Iraq is examined as a case study. While Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party are often invoked when responsibility for late twentieth-century genocides in Iraq is assigned, this dissertation argues against personalizing or individualizing the history of genocide in Iraq by assigning responsibility to a single agent or a single political organization. Thus, it avoids detaching the present from the past and argues that macro-events in the present are accumulations of the micro-processes of past events, which also cannot be disassociated from civilians. The first part of the dissertation outlines the theoretical apparatus that is used to conceptualize the cultural practices of the general population in Iraq prior to Saddam Hussein’s rule. The second part consists of empirical case studies and analysis of semi-structured interviews that were conducted to contextualize the experiences of individuals.