Revisiting the Massacre in History

25-27 September, 2008

'All massacre is violence, but not all violence is massacre'

In 1995, a conference was organised at the University of Warwick by Mark Levene and Penny Roberts in which the groundwork for a study of massacre was laid. Ten years later, the Conflict Research Group at the University of Newcastle, Australia, invited scholars from all disciplines to reassess the research that had been done since that time, to place massacre as an area of study within the context of contemporary events, and to (re)examine the massacre in history and the processes by which it operates.

The organisers hoped that the workshop would result in a clearer definition of massacre in an historical context, and produce a tighter framework for future massacre studies. We addressed topics and problems from a wide variety of periods and places, from ancient history to the present, and from all parts of the world. The massacre has become synonymous with genocide in recent years, but the workshop focused on the distinctiveness of massacre as an historical experience, and not on themes related to genocide or Holocaust studies. Topics included:

  • theories of massacre
  • the emotional and psychological texture of massacre
  • the manner in which massacres operate and the impetus behind them (racial, religious, political, sexual, age-related, ideological, military)
  • massacre and the state
  • the massacre in memory (monuments, commemorations)
  • representations of massacre in art, film, photography and the novel
  • the massacre as an agent of violence