Monday, September 24, 2007

Pg. 69: Ben Kiernan's "Blood and Soil"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Ben Kiernan's Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur.

About the book, from the publisher:
For thirty years Ben Kiernan has been deeply involved in the study of genocide and crimes against humanity. He has played a key role in unearthing confidential documentation of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. His writings have transformed our understanding not only of twentieth-century Cambodia but also of the historical phenomenon of genocide. This new book — the first global history of genocide and extermination from ancient times — is among his most important achievements.

Kiernan examines outbreaks of mass violence from the classical era to the present, focusing on worldwide colonial exterminations and twentieth-century case studies including the Armenian genocide, the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin’s mass murders, and the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides. He identifies connections, patterns, and features that in nearly every case gave early warning of the catastrophe to come: racism or religious prejudice, territorial expansionism, and cults of antiquity and agrarianism. The ideologies that have motivated perpetrators of mass killings in the past persist in our new century, says Kiernan. He urges that we heed the rich historical evidence with its telltale signs for predicting and preventing future genocides.
Among the early praise for the book:

"In exploring the global 'prehistory' of the horrific forms of societal violence usually associated with the twentieth century, Kiernan identifies key factors that have been consistently associated with genocidal episodes. His book makes an original contribution to our understanding of the phenomenon."
—Michael Adas, Rutgers University

“Ben Kiernan’s Blood and Soil is a major work explaining myths and metaphors that have underwritten genocide for six hundred years—earlier within the bowels of the western tradition; now commonplace practice far beyond that tradition. In seeing genocide as linked to issues of land as well as race, nation, and expansion, Kiernan has opened up social, political, and economic analysis to the struggle for land and the control of property. Such an approach is unique as it is provocative. It is inspired by the author’s profound reading of Cambodia and Southeast Asia. Blood and Soil provides an angle of vision rarely found in those who start (and stop) with a European base of scholarship. The book opens up new questions and formulations on the nature of state inspired murder. It merits a close reading of the dark side of terror, often commented upon, but rarely probed.”
—Irving Louis Horowitz, Rutgers University

Blood and Soil is a stunning achievement. The idea for the project was clearly a prompting of the heart, but the argument itself is a thing of pure intellect. It surveys thousands of years, visits every corner of the world, and stares with scarcely a blink at the worst horrors the world has ever known. As an act of scholarship, it simply stands alone.”
—Kai Erikson, Yale University

“Ben Kiernan’s book is a major contribution to genocide studies — a first attempt to tell the history of genocidal events, from Sparta to Darfur. Blood and Soil is a well-researched, detailed account of many instances of mass killings and the reasons for their occurrence. It will no doubt give rise to controversy, new research, and new insights.”
—Yehuda Bauer, Yad Vashem

"With this book, [Kiernan] examines genocide globally, venturing a framework by which genocide may be recognized and analyzed.... Covering instances of genocide on every continent ... Kiernan notes haunting continuities across cultures and time periods.... A bold and substantial work of unprecedented scope, this book is international history at its best."

Read an excerpt from Blood and Soil, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Ben Kiernan is the A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History, professor of international and area studies, and the founding director of the Genocide Studies Program at Yale University. His previous books include How Pol Pot Came to Power: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Communism in Cambodia, 1930–1975 and The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979.

The Page 69 Test: Blood and Soil.

--Marshal Zeringue