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Title: Atrocity and Proto-Genocide in Sri Lanka
Authors: Powell, Christopher
Amarasingam, Amarnath
Keywords: War;Genocide;History
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: University of Calgary Press
Citation: Powell, C. & Amarasingam, A. (2017). Atrocity and proto-genocide in Sri Lanka. In S. W. Murray (Ed.), Understanding Atrocities: Remembering, Representing and Teaching Genocide (pp. 19-47). Calgary, Alberta: University of Calgary Press.
Series/Report no.: Arts in Action;1
Abstract: This paper discusses the concept of “proto-genocide.” This concept adds clarity to studies of cultural genocide by helping to distinguish between situations where a collective identity is under violent attack and situations of full-blown genocide. The distinction between “genocide” and “proto-genocide” is analogous to the distinction, in the conservation status of species, between “endangered” or “critically endangered” and “vulnerable” or “near threatened.”1 Proto-genocide helps to define the boundaries of the genocide concept while still relating it to less totalizing forms of ethnic violence. Our argument has three main components. First, we discuss the question of what distinguishes genocide from other atrocities, and hence what are the ultimate practical implications of a campaign against genocide. This discussion provides the rationale for a concept of proto-genocide. Second, we address the boundaries of the concept of genocide. Since cultures change all the time, it is important to distinguish cultural change, even in the context of violence and atrocity, from genocide per se. To this end we propose our notion of proto-genocide, in which enabling conditions for genocide are established but wholesale cultural extermination is not yet underway. Finally, we examine the current situation of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Although the historical pattern of severe atrocities against Tamil people has led some commentators to describe the situation as genocidal, we argue that these events can be more precisely understood as an instance of proto-genocide. This analysis supports the view that tendencies toward genocide are a systemic feature of modern global society.
ISBN: 978-1-55238-886-0
ISSN: 2371-6142
Appears in Collections:Understanding Atrocities: Remembering, Representing and Teaching Genocide

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