Beyond the Banality of Evil: Criminology and Genocide

ISBN : 9780199674626

Augustine Brannigan
288 Pages
148 x 217 mm
Pub date
Aug 2013
Clarendon Studies in Criminology
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Positioning itself within significant developments in genocide studies arising from misgivings about two noteworthy observers, Arendt and Milgram, this book asks what lies 'beyond the banality of evil'? And suggests the answer lies within criminology. Offering the author's reflections about how to interpret genocide as a crime, Beyond the Banality of Evil: Criminology and Genocide endeavours to understand how the theories of criminal motivation might shed light on these stunning events and make them comprehensible. While a great deal has been written about the shortcomings of the obedience paradigm and 'desk murderers' when discussing the Holocaust, little has been said of what results when investigations are taken beyond these limitations. Through examination and analysis of the literature surrounding genocide studies, Brannigan frames the events within a general theoretical approach to crime before applying his own revised model, specifically to Rwanda and drawn from field-work in 2004 and 2005. This provides a new and compelling account of the dynamics of the 1994 genocide and its distinctive attributes of speed, popularity, totality and emotional indifference. With a focus on the disarticulation of personal culpability among ordinary perpetrators, Beyond the Banality of Evil questions the effectiveness of individual-level guilt imputation in these politically based, collectively orchestrated crimes, and raises doubts about the utility of criminal indictments that have evolved in the context of models of individual misconduct.


1. Genocide and the obedience paradigm
2. Three paradoxes of genocide in criminology
3. Labelling genocide: the constitutive problem
4. Explaining crime, explaining genocide: the control perspective
5. The psychogenesis and sociogenesis of genocide in Rwanda
6. Catalysts and accomplices
7. The limits of the criminal law
8. The civil remedy for genocide
9. Truth and reconciliation commissions: the third option
10. Conclusion: Beyond the banality of evil

About the author: 

Professor Augustine Brannigan is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Calgary. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1978 and has written extensively on criminological theory and crime control in Canada. His research interests have extended to the patterns of victimization of non-combatants in contexts of war and civil war, terrorism and genocide.

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