Contextualizing Mass Atrocity Crimes: The Dynamics of ‘Extremely Violent Societies'

  • Citation: Karstedt, Susanne. “Contextualizing Mass Atrocity Crimes: The Dynamics of ‘Extremely Violent Societies.’” European Journal of Criminology 9, no. 5 (2012): 499–513.
    • Topics:
    • Human Rights
    • Keywords:
    • genocides
    • mass atrocities
    • atrocity crimes
    • extremely violent societies
    • Violent Society index
    • mass violence

Mass violence and genocidal events are presently characterized by new patterns that clearly set them apart from previous genocides and mass atrocities. These changes in the nature of mass atrocity events have necessarily shifted perspectives and conceptualizations of genocide and mass atrocities. Gerlach’s (2006, 2010) concept of ‘extremely violent societies’ seeks to deconstruct conventional understandings of genocidal mass violence and to re-contextualize it within a larger framework of conflict and in the ‘grassroots nature’ of other types of violence from which these events emerge. Based on his concept, I constructed a ‘Violent Societies Index’ (VSI), which offers a new approach to the multifaceted nature of contemporary mass violence and provides a new tool for a contextual and pattern analysis: it is the ‘how’ of extreme levels of violence that is addressed rather than the ‘why’.