Violence as a Generative Force

Violence as a Generative Force : Identity, Nationalism, and Memory in a Balkan Community

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During two terrifying days and nights in early September 1941, the lives of nearly two thousand men, women, and children were taken savagely by their neighbors in Kulen Vakuf, a small rural community straddling today's border between northwest Bosnia and Croatia. This frenzy-in which victims were butchered with farm tools, drowned in rivers, and thrown into deep vertical caves-was the culmination of a chain of local massacres that began earlier in the summer. In Violence as a Generative Force, Max Bergholz tells the story of the sudden and perplexing descent of this once peaceful multiethnic community into extreme violence. This deeply researched microhistory provides provocative insights to questions of global significance: What causes intercommunal violence? How does such violence between neighbors affect their identities and relations?

Contrary to a widely held view that sees nationalism leading to violence, Bergholz reveals how the upheavals wrought by local killing actually created dramatically new perceptions of ethnicity-of oneself, supposed "brothers," and those perceived as "others." As a consequence, the violence forged new communities, new forms and configurations of power, and new practices of nationalism. The history of this community was marked by an unexpected explosion of locally executed violence by the few, which functioned as a generative force in transforming the identities, relations, and lives of the many. The story of this largely unknown Balkan community in 1941 provides a powerful means through which to rethink fundamental assumptions about the interrelationships among ethnicity, nationalism, and violence, both during World War II and more broadly throughout the world.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 464 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 37mm | 28g
  • Ithaca, United States
  • English
  • 16 halftones, 12 maps
  • 1501704923
  • 9781501704925
  • 59,560

Review quote

"Max Bergholz' excitement at investment in and knowledge of the events around Kulen Vakuf in 1941 are beyond question. His framing of the archival discovery story speaks volumes to his meticulousness, focus, and commitment to contextual knowledge as the sine qua non of historical scholarship. He also has an eye for telling detail, offering cinematic-style close-ups that fill the frame and flood the reader's senses... [I] found this book absorbing, vivid, and stimulating. Both author and Cornell University Press deserve credit for bringing this compelling story to light and to life." -- Keith Brown, Arizona State University * EuropeNow * "A critical resource for scholars of political violence." * Journal Southeastern Europe * "Bergholz's book shakes away the complacency of too many historians of nationalism over the years. It is a major contribution to southeastern European history and to the fields of nationalism and violence studies." * H-Genocide * "Well written, this monograph will rightfully take its place among the great books on ethnically inspired violence and deserves to be a standard text on genocide in modern history courses." * Journal of Modern History *
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About Max Bergholz

Max Bergholz is Assistant Professor of History at Concordia University in Montreal, where he holds the James M. Stanford Professorship in Genocide and Human Rights Studies.
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Rating details

10 ratings
4.8 out of 5 stars
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4 20% (2)
3 0% (0)
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1 0% (0)
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