Towards an open definition of genocide : an inquiry into the construction of "ethnic" conflict in Darfur

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Costa, Michela
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The purpose of this study is to test the consistency of the current legal definition of genocide in light of a constructivist approach to ethnic conflicts. Nowadays, ethnicity is largely interpreted as a cognitive category constructed by actors in a collective relationship, rather than an objective feature of social reality. Furthermore, several studies illustrate the processes of ideological manipulation that underlie the eruption of collective violence. The current legal definition of genocide suffers from two main shortcomings. First, it is inadequate with respect to social processes of construction of ethnic labels, which gives rise to uncertainty in jurisprudential interpretation. Second, the constructed nature of social identities logically contradicts the decision to assign a special status to an exhaustive list of protected groups. To illustrate these positions I use the conflict in Darfur as a case-study and investigate the processes of ethno-genesis in the region. The analysis employs an interdisciplinary perspective, including contributions from the fields of social and political studies and international law. Finally, I suggest an inclusive conceptualisation of the crime of genocide that will be appropriate to protect under one legal category any human group that is arbitrarily constructed and collectively targeted for destruction.
Second semester University: Utrecht University
Darfur, ethnic identity, genocide