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How Does Community Conflict Turn Into Genocide?

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The Ninth Annual Zócalo Book Prize Lecture

History often blames genocide solely on murderous demagogues and military campaigns. But more often than not, the forces that unleash ethnic cleansing arise slowly and during peacetime, and stem from seemingly everyday interactions in places that are home to diverse peoples. What sorts of exchanges and social conditions unleash genocidal behavior? How do people who long lived together as neighbors come to turn on—and kill—each other? And can we teach ourselves to spot the early steps towards genocide so that we might prevent it in other countries or even our own? Brown University Distinguished Professor of European History Omer Bartov, winner of the ninth annual Zócalo Book Prize for Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz, visits Zócalo to share lessons from his mother’s hometown about how easily communities can slide into mass killing.

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