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The Partition of India & Retributive Genocide In The Punjab 1946–47: Means, Methods & Purposes

Genocide studies suffer from several defects that compromise the systematic study of its origins, the dynamic processes by which it is produced, contained, or prevented. These defects include excessive argument over labelling, a narrowed focus on uncovering previously unknown or little known sites of genocide, and forms of causal analysis that involve little more than heavy-handed laying of blame upon a particular or general source: the state, a leader, a whole people.

The argument over labelling is the most debilitating. It is really a struggle for territory, for the right to make a claim of utmost suffering and victimhood for a people or to extend the claim to encompass a wider range of sufferers. It is to that extent a political rather than a scientific struggle—for attention to one’s cause—in which historians themselves become enmeshed.

The narrow focus on exposing to view particular sites of genocide previously neglected has merit and is necessary, but it often gives the appearance more of a prosecutor’s amassing of evidence for a jury, in this case world opinion. Causal analyses that focus upon the German or Turkish state, Hitler or Pol Pot, the German people as a whole and their accomplice peoples in Eastern Europe, either narrow the gaze too finely or extend it too broadly. The same considerations apply to the arguments over the responsibilities of Roosevelt or Churchill for failing to prevent, to save, to destroy. Too often such analyses provide a halo over the head of the analyst who never asks himself or herself what, where, how he or she would have, could have behaved differently.

Authored by Paul R, Brass

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