Genocide, Mass Killing, and Violent Conflict: Prevention and Reconciliation

Ervin Staub

in The Oxford Handbook of Intergroup Conflict

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199747672
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Genocide, Mass Killing, and Violent Conflict: Prevention and Reconciliation

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This chapter briefly describes the influences that lead to violence between groups, including extreme violence such as mass killing and genocide. The starting points are economic deterioration, political disorganization and/or great social changes, and persistent conflict. These frustrate basic psychological needs and can lead to scapegoating, the development of destructive ideologies, and the evolution of increasing hostility and violence. A history of devaluation of some group, past group victimization and woundedness, other cultural characteristics, and the passivity of internal and external bystanders make such violence more likely. The chapter describes trainings and educational radio projects in Rwanda to promote understanding the influences that lead to violence and avenues to prevention, and their positive impact. It discusses a number of other avenues to prevention and reconciliation: Humanizing the other, through words and significant contact, including dialogue; creating constructive ideologies, visions that embrace all groups; healing from past victimization and fostering altruism born of suffering; the establishment of the complex truth and working to develop a shared history, which require changes in collective memories or group narratives. The importance of positive socialization of children for inclusive caring and moral courage, and the relationship between political processes and reconciliation activities, in particular in Rwanda, are noted. Promoting positive psychological changes can advance the development of constructive social values and the creation of institutions and practices that fulfill basic material and psychological needs, and help create a harmonious society.

Keywords: Genocide; prevention; reconciliation; devaluation; woundedness; healing; humanizing; contact; destructive and constructive ideologies; understanding the roots of violence; passive and active bystanders

Article.  13660 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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