Genocide definition explored


Words such as “Holocaust” and “Rwanda” mentioned in a conversation many times will be connected to the word “genocide.” For students at Susquehanna, the murdering of a group of people describes genocide. Claudia Card, the Emma Goldman Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wanted to expand upon this idea.
Card spoke at Susquehanna on Thursday night. Her talk, “Further Reflections on the Social Death Hypothesis,” addressed her theory of genocide being defined as a social death rather than just the murder of a group.
Card said that she started working on genocide as a result of going to an International Association of Women Philosophers (IAPh). IAPh has conferences every other year in a different country. Card started attending these conferences in 1995.
“Since I was addressing an international group, I started thinking about issues of international concern,” Card said. “That’s how I got started working on such topics such as genocide, terrorism and torture.”card
Card’s discussion of genocide being a social death touched on a variety of ideas, such as the question of genocide being the worst possible crime, the different definitions of genocide in the world, the definition of evil and the definition of social death.
Prominently, the latter idea stood out as a main point in her talk, suggested by the title of her presentation. Card said that society should recognize that a genocide is not necessarily always homicide.
She added that, instead, society should see genocide as a social death, the loss of social vitality, which, as she defines it, are relationships that unite people, create a community and give meaning to the members of the group.
Therefore, Card said, there is much more to genocide than simply killing, which she believes is important for societies to recognize.
At the end of the talk, Lissa Skitolsky, associate professor of philosophy at Susquehanna, said that she was thrilled with the turnout and the students’ questions following the presentation
Freshman Megan Rodriguez, a Spanish and creative writing double major, said that after hearing Card talk and reading one of her essays, she has a broader understanding of genocide as not only mass murder but any action that destroys the social vitality and ties of a group of people.
Card said that she hopes that the lecture attendees will gain, as she put it, “a richer understanding of the concept of genocide and what distinguishes it from, for example, mass slaughters that are not genocides, and why it’s important to make that distinction law.”
Card is still currently teaching as a professor as well as being a philosopher and writer. She has written many books including ones associated with her topic of evil.
They include “The Atrocity Paradigm: a Theory of Evil” and “Confronting Evils: Terrorism, Torture, Genocide.” Card said she is also currently working on a third volume in this trilogy about surviving atrocities.